POLICE on Monday evening fought running battles with Kawama residents in Ndola following riots that ensued after a resident was shot and killed by Zambia National Service officers.
Business at Kawama market and other parts of the township came to a standstill.
The residents complained that the action taken by ZNS officers was uncalled for, and called for thorough investigations into the matter.
A resident who sought anonymity said the officers’ action was unprofessional. The resident said the officers could have at least warned the deceased instead of firing at him especially that he was unarmed.
Others demanded justice to prevail on the matter because the victim did not steal from anyone but was trading just like any other person.
The irate residents, who blocked the road leading to Kawama clinic, Intulo Primary School, Kawama police post and the market, threw stones at vehicles entering the township.
The residents accused area councillor Cephas Mwelwa of being at the helm of the confusion.
They alleged Mwelwa was working with ZNS officers to smuggle mealie-meal into neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo.
“Ba councillor Mwelwa went to the ZNS camp where he ordered them to pursue everyone that was ferrying mealie-meal into the DRC on a bicycle but ignore those using vehicles. This same councillor is a criminal and the one smuggling mealie-meal. But he is working with ZNS,” a resident named Gift Kalaba said.
The residents, who threatened to burn the councillor’s house, further accused him of instructing ZNS to shoot the alleged smugglers.
According to police sources, the alleged smuggler was shot after he defied a ZNS directive to stop his van which was laden with mealie-meal.
“What happened is that the man who was shot by ZNS officers manning the area in Kawama was told to stop but he kept moving his van packed with mealie-meal. Despite warning shots, the smuggler did not stop and this forced the ZNS officers to fire at him,” said a police source.
But when reached for a comment, Mwelwa said the allegations were not true adding that he had been telling ZNS officers not to manhandle residents because most of them have their fields in the DRC.
He said the residents should not take the law into their own hands.
“I have been fighting for the people that others do their farming activities on DRC land. I speak for them. They need to be patriotic with their country and avoid engaging themselves in illegal activities,” Mwelwa said.
He wondered how he could instruct the officers to shoot and kill a resident who he said was not even from Kawama but Chifubu township.
“It’s not true. How can a civilian instruct military personnel? I’m just a small person who has no influence. Those people get instructions from the President who is their Commander-In-Chief and the Minister of Defence [Davis Chama],” said Mwelwa.
Copperbelt police commissioner Charity Katanga confirmed the killing of the resident and the riot by the residents.
“Yes, there was a shooting and riotous behaviour by the residents but allow me to get enough details. But officers have calmed the situation,” Katanga said.
She said no damage to property was reported apart from the portion of the road where the residents burnt tyres and stones that were thrown at a few shops.