(By Chambwa Moonga in Lundazi)
UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema says the PF is using police uniforms to instigate political violence in the country, especially in areas where there are elections.
Hichilema and his entourage went to lodge a complaint at Lundazi police station on Friday, in relation to some UPND supporters who have suffered physical injuries by alleged PF supporters in the ongoing Mkomba ward by-election in Lundazi Central Constituency.
A senior officer, a Mr Njobvu, told the opposition leader that the police station’s officer-in-charge was not around, so they could not attend to his complaint.
Hichilema, however, tried to reason with the police officer saying much as he understood that the officer-in-charge was not there, the present officer could still attend to the matter “since the office is open.”
“We can still raise our issues because that’s how our institutions operate. If one officer is not there, others are there. The police station is open to hear community members on several issues and so, there is an issue we want to discuss with you, sir,” Hichilema said.
But Njobvu answered that: “I think I’m not the right person to talk to.”
Hichilema asked why the police officer could not talk and the officer said the police station had only one spokesperson – the officer-in-charge.
“He is the one who deals with issues relating to elections. He is in [a] ECZ (Electoral Commission of Zambia) committee. Now since he is not around, there is nothing that I can do,” Njobvu told Hichilema.
Hichilema remarked: “But you don’t know what I have come to say!”
Njobvu countered, saying he knew.
“I know; we are having elections there,” he said.
Hichilema continued and asked: “How do you know what I have come to say?”
In response, the police officer said: “We are having elections there and the issue that you have come for…you have come for the same!”
Hichilema, who was accompanied by UPND deputy national treasurer – resource mobilisation Felix Ngoma and Andrew Banda, told Njobvu that if community members had a complaint relating to law and order, whether there was an election or not, they report to a police station.
“Otherwise, there will be disorder in a community. The correct thing is to hear…. You may say ‘I can’t answer you now’ but you can relay the message to the officer-in-charge. You can’t say ‘because the officer-in-charge is not here, the police station must shut’. Reports have been made to this police station but no arrests have been made. How are we going to maintain law and order if we cannot arrest those who are law-breakers?” he said.
“Our member was abducted from his house by people wearing police uniforms masquerading to be police officers. He identified some of them and a report was made here but the police have not effected any arrest! Some of our members have been axed and the police here in Lundazi have not acted. The police have a duty to protect those citizens, my brother, irrespective of political parties.”
Hichilema insisted that the UPND wanted to know why the police were not acting on reports of criminality by “known people.”
In response, Njobvu retorted, with insolence: “I told you earlier on that I’m not the spokesperson for the police.”
“So, the best thing you can do is to wait for the officer-in-charge who can answer all the issues you have raised. I have just resumed work; I was on leave and the issues you have raised I’m not aware. Thank you,” Njobvu said and then walked out, leaving Hichilema inside the police.
Hichilema then wondered what was happening in Zambia now where “a policeman cannot hear citizens who have a complaint to make!”
“Known members of the PF are abducting our people, brutalising our people and I bring a complaint, the officer is running away from the police station! Then it means the police are biased, the police are failing to do their duties,” Hichilema lamented.
“I want the world to know that there is a breakdown in the rule of law in our country. The police are acting in a biased manner and this is the beginning of many things that are going to come. If the police fail to conduct their job professionally, community members will start killing each other.”
Hichilema, when asked what the way forward was, answered that: “the police must conduct themselves professionally as trained officers.”
“But why are they not performing their duties according to their training? It’s because there is political interference from the PF. It’s the PF that has brought violence in our country – they are the ones orchestrating the breakdown in the rule of law,” he said.
“We would like citizens of Zambia to know, because sometimes there are arguments on who is causing violence. It is the PF instigating violence and police uniforms are being utilised to do these things. I can tell you that these police officers are victims of what is going on. See how he is behaving!”
Hichilema added that Njobvu was supposed to be exemplary in his behaviour, unlike him “behaving like a cadre.”
“You are behaving like a cadre; you must behave like a police officer who went for training!” Hichilema told a tensed Njobvu once he returned at the police station’s inquiries desk.
But Njobvu yelled: “I’m not a cadre! I went [outside] to answer calls from the officer-in-charge. Let me tell you what he has directed….”
But Hichilema could not buy Njobvu’s attempt to explain what he was “directed” by the officer-in-charge, via phone.
“Listen to me, let me talk; you are supposed to act like a police officer who went for training. But you are acting like a PF cadre! This is a police station that belongs to the people,” said Hichilema before he left the station.
Hichilema then went to the roadside and greeted scores of residents that were watching. He was then given a bicycle and he cycled from the police station to Lundazi post office, as a sizeable crowd of his supporters cheered him.
Hichilema was in Lundazi to drum up support for the opposition party’s candidate in the Mkomba ward by-election candidate John Mtonga.
The by-election is slated for February 12.