Guess Nyirenda, Operation Young Vote executive director, says it is now clear that any violence or threatening violence coming from the Patriotic Front cadres is condoned.
“The manner the Patriotic Front government and the police are handling violence and its perpetrators is not only perturbing and worrying but also vexing. It is disheartening to note total silence by Minister of Home Affairs on the panga wielding criminals that went to disrupt and fight the NDC supporters, hacking innocent citizens at Levy Mall,” says Nyirenda. “The police were very quick at arresting NDC supporters that were not complying with the police to move from the premises during the summoning of NDC consultant Chishimba Kambwili while very slow and/or unwilling to make arrests on those that wielded pangas and hacked innocent citizens. The police must ensure impartiality and professionalism in their conduct at all times.”
The Patriotic Front leadership and cadres have been warned by many people against the use of the police to suppress the opposition. They have been reminded of their experiences under the MMD rule, especially that of Rupiah Banda, and how abusing the police to harass them and stifle their political work didn’t work.
The same police they are today using, or rather abusing, will be the same police to be used on them when another party comes into power.
Addressing the UNIP National Council in Lusaka in March, 1969, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, warned:
“Nothing would be more dangerous than to confuse men and women who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order in any country. UNIP members, therefore, apart from the fact that they are humanists, must remember that even for their own good, their fellow workers in the Police Force must be left to deal with the maintenance of law and order in the way they were trained…We will create a very dangerous situation if we should want to control every police unit…otherwise chaos will follow, and I am sure no true UNIP member would like to see this. In other words, remember that while today it is you at the giving end; tomorrow it may be you at the receiving end.”
This was similar to his message of April 15, 1966 to the Lilayi Police Training School: “First and foremost must come the quality of impartial fair play for I do not wish my policemen to be partisans to the many political and tribal feuds that may emerge in our country, as has happened in others. The worst policeman so far as I am concerned is that man who will not admonish or arrest another because he is of the same tribe, race or political sympathy. Equally reprehensible is the policeman who will not do his duty for fear that because he is of a different tribe, race or political feeling, his deeds will be misunderstood. If you find yourself in a position of compromise against the principles of fair play and impartiality, then be humble enough to seek God’s guidance because neither the present nor the future generation will forgive you for betraying the many people who have died and suffered in the struggle to bring forth this independent land.”
In their desire to address the self-created dissent, criticism and opposition they are today facing, there’s need for them to avoid excessive zeal, abuse of the police and the entire judicial system. They should also watch out for the demagogic ‘champions’, extremists, opportunists who tend to crop up in situations like these to gain attention. This strongly asserted but ill-defined control and command of the police should not be a licence for them to abuse the police and its powers. They all know, deep down inside, that it’s wrong and illegal to abuse the police in the way they are doing. And there’s nothing one can say to ever make it right. Abuse is abuse, no matter how you slice it. And the ones carrying out all these abuses should be made to account.
From our keen observation, it is a very sad fact that Zambia’s current political intolerance has fully pressed the pedal of acceleration to more toxic abuses of the police and the entire administration of the criminal justice system.
We see this country whose governance used to be fully anchored on the rule of law being slowly transformed into a wilderness. We hear the approaching thunder that, one day, may destroy us all because if this country is not good for all of us to live in, it won’t be good for any of us to live in. We feel the fear and despair of many. And yet, when we look up to the sky, we somehow feel that everything will change for the better, that this cruelty, too, shall end, that peace and tranquility will return once more to our homeland. It’s very clear that we have very serious leadership weaknesses – brutality, cruelty, tyranny are becoming the order of the day. And weakness is what brings abuses of power, desperation, cruelty, brutality. All cruelty springs from weakness. Cruelty is also out of ignorance. If you knew what was in store for you, you wouldn’t hurt anybody, because whatever you do comes back much more forceful than you send it out.
Cruelty towards others is always also cruelty towards ourselves. The political orders being issued to the police should not be the stifling of opposition and dissent but to go out and hunt for the criminals – those robbing, killing others. These abuses of the police reveal the type of people we have in power. And with such people in charge, we should brace ourselves for more and more abuses, brutality, cruelty and tyranny.
The police and the entire judicial process is being abused by Edgar to frustrate, weaken and destroy the opposition.
The police are not acting as an impartial law enforcement agency but as the armed wing of the Patriotic Front. When you listen to the language of the police, at all levels, towards the opposition or dissent, it is one of disrespect, intimidation, brutality. They don’t issue similar threats to Patriotic Front leaders; they don’t use similar language towards Patriotic Front leaders and cadres. The police have very serious difficulties arresting Patriotic Front leaders and cadres who engage in violence against the opposition or among themselves but are very quick to arrest opposition elements on flimsy or trumped up charges.
The police are abusing the administration of the public order Act to stifle opposition political work. It’s almost impossible for the opposition to hold a meaningful political meeting or rally in areas that matter to the Patriotic Front’s political stakes – Lusaka, the Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern, Muchinga, Eastern and the northern parts of Central provinces.
It’s impossible for Zambians to hold a demonstration, protest against government decisions, policies or actions. But Patriotic Front cadres and supporters don’t need police permits to protest against anyone or anything. And if they happen to apply for a permit, it’s instantly granted. In this way, the police are aiding the Patriotic Front politically – shielding it from meaningful political opposition or challenge. And the police command is no longer attempting to conceal its being part of the Patriotic Front. Senior police officers are actually stepping over each other’s toes in the struggle for recognition by Edgar and his minions. This is not a conducive environment for peaceful, civil multiparty politics. It doesn’t also help to promote and defend civil liberties. We are living in a police state where the police totally and exclusively decide which citizen enjoys which right and when.
If you belong to the opposition, you can easily lose your freedom by the police detaining you on trumped up criminal charges like treason. Edgar is not ready to ease up on his abuse of the public order Act and the judicial process. He sees his political survival as being dependent on these abuses and he is not ready to let go of his lifeline!