JOINT Action for Accountability in Zambia pioneer Laura Miti, musician Chama Fumba aka Pilato and four others have been released from police detention.
The six were arrested yesterday for peacefully protesting over corruption in the PF government and the recent purchase of 42 fire tenders at US$42 million.
Others arrested were Mika Mwambazi, 30 a freelance consultant, Sean Tembo, 37 of Lusaka’s Avondale who is party president for Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP), Zambia Council for Social Development (ZCSD) executive director Lewis Mwape, 44 and Bonwell Mwewa, 43.
They were later charged with disobedience of lawful orders contrary to the Laws of Zambia.
But they were released around midnight on bond, a rare act by the police as most people arrested are never released at night.
“I think Laura + 5 were released for two main reasons, which were acknowledged in confidence even by the policemen themselves. First, it was an illegitimate detention whose purpose was to keep them locked up for the duration of the budget presentation. That the protestors were released around midnight reinforces this view. The police were even unsure about what charges to lay against the protestors,”
said respected political commentator Sishuwa Sishuwa in an interview.
“Second, the ruling authorities were increasingly getting scared about the pilgrimage processions to Emmasdale and Garden police stations that were beginning to form, and which would have intensified this morning, fuelling concerns among the ruling elites that the case was attracting too much attention, even abroad, and would have been a test case for Patricia Scotland and her Commonwealth. So their release was inevitable, given the wider context of their arrest.”
Protestors began their peaceful walk from Puma Filling Station at Arcades Shopping mall where they assembled to the National Assembly around 12:45 hours.
Half way to the Parliament entrance, riot police advanced to stop them from proceeding and disrupted a peaceful protest by the team while letting PF cadres march freely without interruption in what they called a solidarity demonstration for finance minister Felix Mutati who unveiled the 2018 national budget yesterday.
The officers, who started pushing and tearing the placards that had various messages denouncing the government’s abuse of public resources, manhandled Pilato and Laura, who had refused to have their placards destroyed.
As this was going on, Pilato was heard telling them that they would be held accountable for the destruction in the country.
“Tulemilandila, ifi mulechita mukalenga abaana benu ukuchula (we are speaking for you, what you are doing will cause suffering on your children),” Pilato said.
But in response, one of officers said: “Pilato, I know you are a responsible citizen that’s why I am not roughing you up, just go.”
After seeing the resistance from the protesters, Miti, Pilato and a handful of other protesters were arrested, dragged and bundled into a police van and taken to Emmasdale Police Station.
Earlier, PF cadres who were headed to the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport joined the fracas in what they termed as ‘helping the police’.
The slogan-chanting PF cadres in Rosa buses joined the police action to intimidate the protestors.
After noticing that the situation would get out of hand, police pleaded with the cadres to leave and they reluctantly did so.
And in an interview before they were taken to the police station, Miti wondered why police were silencing her for questioning the government on how they were using public funds.
Earlier, the police summoned Miti to force headquarters to plead with her to call off the protest at Parliament.
But Miti told deputy inspector general of police Malcom Mulenga that the event was already in full gear and could not be stopped.
“They wanted me to call off the protest but I refused. I said ‘no, I’m now on my way to Parliament to meet the other protesters’,” said Miti in an interview just after her meeting with Mulenga.