(By Charles Tembo and Marilyn Rose)
POLICE in Kitwe have apprehended about 101 people from four various Townships for engaging in a riot over alleged sale of ZAFFICO. Meanwhile, State House says criminal elements inciting xenophobic killings on the Chinese over the alleged sale of ZAFFICO will be prosecuted. Copperbelt Police Commissioner Charity Katanga said in an interview that the 101 people were rounded up after they rioted over the suspected sale of ZAFFICO to a Chinese investor.
Katanga said among the 101 are 22 females and 79 males. Katanga said the 101 have been charged with riotous behaviour and that more would be arrested. She said police would not tolerate lawlessness. And Katanga said a 28-year-old Victor Chanda is in Kitwe Teaching Hospital nursing injuries he sustained during the riot. Katanga said that the man sustained injuries on his face after residents tried to break into a Chinese smelter but an alert security officer shot at them and some pellets landed on him.
Yesterday, Kitwe sawmillers rioted over the alleged sale of ZAFFICO by the government. The sawmillers were joined by residents of Chimwemwe, Kawama, Kwacha, Kamatipa, and Bulangililo in the riots. The rioters also looted shops owned by foreigners who they suspect have [purchased ZAFFICO plant in Kalulushi district. Residents threw stones at police officers who retaliated with gunshots and teargas.
But President Lungu’s press aide Amos Chanda said lies on the sale of ZAFFICO bordered on criminality. Address journalists in Ndola during President Edgar Lungu’s two-day visit on the Copperbelt, Chanda said the riots were unfortunate.
“With regards to the misinformation, it amounts to some element of criminality and it’s up to the police to investigate if some prosecution should be done. It is up to the police. What the President said is that all the 33 companies in IDC (Industrial Development Corporation) will be listed. When these companies are listed, [they] are enabled to raise money to sustain [themselves]. The process of listing [on the Lusaka Stock Exchange] will go ahead,” Chanda said.
He said listed companies were more protected.
Chanda said some people’s behaviour was criminal.
“These are elements of criminality and should be investigated because of the element of xenophobic feelings against some nationals, because someone irresponsible issued some statement somewhere,” Chanda said.
“So the Minister of Copperbelt [Japhen Mwakalombe] will sit down, to have a meeting, with ZAFFICO officials so that it is cleared that ZAFFICO has not been sold. There are 33 companies to be listed. So the target of misinformation targeted at some foreign nationals is creating xenophobic feelings which is criminal.”
Earlier, government spokesperson Dora Siliya, via Twitter, stated that: “Govt wishes to restate that it is NOT in receipt of any proposal from Chinese or any other investor on the Sale of ZAFFICO. In fact, Govt has no intention of selling ZAFFICO. IDC will hold a press briefing to confirm the same at Garden Court in Kitwe on Tues 6 Nov at 10hrs.”
Kitwe district commissioner Binwel Mpundu advised residents against taking the law into their own hands and to desist from looting other people’s shops as it was criminal. Mpundu said the police were doing everything possible to control the situation. Owen Zulu, a taxi driver, said the economy was not favouring any one and that selling ZAFFICO would be disastrous. He said the sawmillers were upset with rumours lingering around that Zaffico Zaffico been sold as it is their only way of raising income. Copperbelt minister Japhen Mwakalombe said the sawmillers were protesting against themselves because government has not sold ZAFFICO.
Mwakalombe said he was saddened that the workers were protesting against themselves.
“Whom are they protesting against? Who has sold ZAFFICO? They are doing this out of lies that they have been told. But ZAFFICO is a company for the local people. These [are] lies that ZAFFICO is sold. So they are protesting against themselves. We know who is inciting these people,” Mwakalombe said.
“First and foremost, sawmillers should understand that there is a law. We take interest in the Zambian people. Every decision we make is in the best interest of the people. Before they protest, they must follow the procedure of engagement. If they can listen to alarmists and protests, then it’s not a good thing. They should engage my office and find out if ZAFFICO has been sold or not. This company is for Zambians and if they protest, who are they protesting against? It’s themselves, then they are wasting their time. We have engaged the MD at ZAFFICO to engage the workers. The MD has engaged the unions and we will address and explain that ZAFFICO is not sold.”
Mwakalombe said there was no need to panic over the protests.
He said people were just being misled over ZAFFICO.
“There is no cause to worry, there is no cause to panic because the person who was on the media to mislead the people is used to lies and misleading people. So we should not buy his lies. Because next we don’t know what he will say and what lies next. Next he will say he has sold his house because to them everything is about selling. You will hear that we have sold the dual carriageway between Ndola and Kitwe next. Let his lies be thrown in the trash bin,” said Mwakalombe.