Amayendele Muno Zambia: Charity Katanga, Hichilema and the Zambian Constitution

There is a genuine temptation when you wear a police combat and carry a gun to think that you are the alpha and omega of civil liberties in Zambia. Ms Charity Katanga, the Commissioner of Police on the Copperbelt Province, is labouring under a hefty, and mistaken, burden of thinking that she is somewhat the custodian of our constitutional liberties. Zambia’s worst brain drain is not what has happened to professionals leaving Zambia and living in Canada, or America. Zambia’s worst brain drain is what happens to educated Zambians once they acquire political power, or in the case of Ms Katanga, acquire a gun, and a Chinese made Zambia police combat.


Ms Katanga is hugely educated. She has studied the constitution of Zambia and is very well versed with the current Public Order Act. With this education background, one would expect something better. But no. Kuwayawayafye. There is no constitutional or statutory provision under which Ms Katanga should send a battalion of police officers to stop Mr Hakainde Hichilema from attending a church service. What Ms. Katanga did in Ndola and Kitwe is a disgrace. The constitution does not give Ms Katanga that right and neither does the infamous Public Order Act. To be clear, there is no provision anywhere under Zambian laws, where Mr Hichilema requires a police permit to go to Church, any church for that matter. Ms Charity Katanga is inventing the law. We have to say some things about that. Zambian law is not something Ms Katanga can just steam up from her own brain, and neither is it something she can just dream out of her mind. Zambian law is given to us by the constitution and by our elected parliament. Zambian law is what is interpreted, from time to time, by our judges. Ms Charity Katanga is not a source of Zambian law, and therefore she cannot just wake up one morning, get drunk on small doses of power and begin persecuting a citizen of Zambia. This is the nonsense the people of Zambia will not tolerate, and Ms Katanga has to be personally accountable for her confused application of the law.


Reports attributed to Ms Katanga state that she thinks that Mr Hakainde Hichilema is childish by attending Church without police permission. To be very fair to Ms Katanga, I must tell her something about our constitution. Under the law of Zambia, Mr Hichilema has the right to be childish. The police have no mandate to stop Zambians from being silly, or childish. Childishness is a constitutional right. “Sangalala”, the Ushi of Milenge say, “ilyo noko acilipo”. In Zambia, we have the constitution of Zambia as our mother, and we can be as childish as we want because we know that we have entrenched provisions in our mother to grant us the protection. The Zambia Police are not there to protect Zambians from being childish, the police exist to protect Zambians from criminals and protect Zambians’ exercise of constitutional liberties, whether that exercise as childish or not.


Let me then digress a little bit. Under international law and what I call “the law of common sense”, people like Ms Katanga who have access to guns, bear personal responsibility in the manner they are discharging those guns. Ms Katanga cannot just go causing terror and mayhem to Zambian citizens and escape liability by claiming that she was only carrying orders from Mr Kampyongo or Mr Lungu. She bears personal responsibility since she knows the law and she is carrying dangerous weapons. She has to know that her role as a police officer is not to facilitate the ruling party’s desire but to keep law and order as enshrined in the constitution. We will hold her personally responsible.


In 1964, at independence, Zambians acquired the “amayendele” rights. These rights meant that a citizen of Zambia can one day be in Chipata, and then go on umungulu to Mwinilunga and if they can afford it, stop by Livingstone and watch the water fall. Zambians have the right to fly to Ndola, use the airport, and then change their mind and come back to Milenge by road. Zambians can talk to whoever they want. They can, in fact, gossip a little bit about how Mrs Lungu wears her chitenge. It is known as enjoying constitutional liberties! What about Church? Of course, Zambia is a Christian nation and Zambians can go to Church. If they want, Zambians can go to six or ten churches in a day. They can go to Bread of Life, then connect to the Church of Rome and then end up at the Chimpempe Church. Today they can be members of Grace Ministries and tomorrow change their minds and join the nashalaneka prophetic church. Strangely though, even ba Chitawala who have the constitutional right not to sing the national anthem, are still protected by the stanzas of that same national anthem. Apparently, the kelenkas gathered at the so-called National Dialogue Forum (NDF) want to send ba Chitawala to jail for objecting to sing the national anthem. However, both the NDF and Ms Katanga need reminding that Zambians have some rights under the Constitution. And these rights are inviolable.


The author can be reached at elias@munshyalaw.com.

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