VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina says the government cannot rule out any measure, including declaring a state of threatened emergency, to curb the gassing and attacks on citizens.
During the Vice-President’s Question Time in Parliament yesterday, in follow up questions, PF Bwana Mkubwa member of parliament Jonas Chanda asked why the government was not declaring a threatened state of emergency having considered the gassing and other attacks as acts of terrorism.
He noted that the gassing incidents were being systematically carried out in terrorism-like manner.
In response, Vice-President Wina said “Mr Speaker, indeed this is a national security issue but we have not reached the point where we need to declare it a national emergency issue.”
She said there were measures that the government was taking to address the issue and believe with time “certain measures will be considered and we cannot rule out any measure at the moment.”
Vice-President Wina said the government was still studying the situation and see what measures would be put in place to deal with the “tragedy that has befallen our country”.
But Bweengwa UPND member of parliament Michelo Kasauta talked of a saying that “any insecurity situation that lasts more than 24 hours has the government support, wondering how people could believe what was happening was not a PF move to create confusion in country so that “you can start arresting opposition members”.
This question appeared to have unsettled Vice-President Wina, who even after Speaker Matibini asked to her to respond, still remained sat in her seat.
“Mr Speaker, it was only a few minutes ago when Leader of Opposition [Jack Mwiimbu] expressed regret at what is happening around the country but then suddenly one of his members comes up with the question and remarks that are saying something else so that’s why we were wondering whether that condemnation was genuine or not,” she responded.
“Mr Speaker, in Kanyama for example, where public property has been destroyed the police post was built only a few months ago with the support of the people in that area, the business community and government. How could government turn around and tell its people to damage that police post? And while doing the damage to the property, there were slogans that were uttered by some of these criminals. And these utterances can only be attributed to certain sections of our society including some opposition political parties.”
Vice-President Wina said the government has not accused any political party of any ill-doing in the criminal sphere.
“But what we are saying is that these criminals have been hired, have been trained and have been sent to target innocent Zambians, to terrorise them and that’s why I said these are terrorist acts. To say that government planted these people to do these heinous crimes is missing the point,” she said. “Currently the whole world is fighting terrorism. And I do not believe any government in Europe or anywhere can send its people to damage certain infrastructure so that it is seen to be fighting the opposition. It’s only in this country where we can think in such myopic manner.”
Vice-President Wina said the PF government wants to build Zambia.
She said infrastructure was one of the hallmarks of the PF government.
“How can it build and break at the same time? That is not possible. We are aware of those who do not want to see this development taking shape in our country. And for those characters, who are working with whoever it is should know that this government is committed to develop this country and we will do anything possible to stop such criminals in their tracks so that people are protected, so that the people have confidence in their own government,” Vice-President Wina said.
She challenged leaders to demonstrate their leadership skills to ensure that peace prevails in communities and the country.
Earlier, Vice-President Wina said the ongoing gassing of innocent citizens was a very unfortunate phenomenon.
“The belief in supernatural beliefs in this country are going out of hand and of course fueled by social media fake news. It’s unfortunate that our young people, girls and boys, men and women are being hired to perpetrate these heinous crimes,” Vice-President Wina said. “These are no longer just petty crimes; they are terrorist crimes that the state has to respond to in a manner that befits a terrorist. The whole idea, we believe, is to frighten the population, make the country unruly and this is extremely unfortunate. The most important thing is to find the culprits behind these heinous crimes.”
Vice-President Wina said the gassing of households that started on the Copperbelt had spread to many parts of Zambia, including Lusaka, Central Province and North Western Province.
“These criminals are hired. They are not acting on their own. For this reason, the President has come out to condemn this situation. As Commander-In-Chief of the armed forces, he has directed the army to be on the streets and as second in command of the Zambia armed forces, as Vice-President, I endorse the steps that our President has taken,” she said. “We cannot continue to see our people being terrorised; they have not committed any crimes against anyone but this is done to instill fear in our communities and for what purpose, no one can explain, until we come to the bottom of the issue to know who is sponsoring these characters and who is funding them, then the situation will be normalised.”
Leader of the Opposition in the House, Jack Mwiimbu then rose to contribute saying “we also condemn the gassing of innocent people in the country” but the PF and government interjected him to a point where Speaker Matibini called for order, cautioning the ruling party and government on the serious issue.
“There is no need for this kind of reaction. Honourable member for Monze [continue],” Speaker Matibini said.
Mwiimbu repeated his statement but still PF disapproved of it.
Dr Matibini called for order a second time telling the ruling party side to desist from interjecting as the problem was national.
“And we are part of the national leadership as a whole. If we can’t transact, we skip this all together. Time may be running out but you can’t transact with this kind of reaction. Time running out or not, there is no way we will transact, I will stop it, not just the watch but the transaction itself,” Speaker Matibini said and allowed Mwiimbu to continue.
Mwiimbu then said: “This is a national issue; unless our colleagues want to take it as a partisan issue.”
He said when gassing incidents started in Chingola, statements were made by the PF saying those were ritual killers.
He said the opposition asked the government to take into account allegations being raised by the people to ensure law and order but they refused.
Mwiimbu wondered what had changed for the government to start insinuating that “these are hired killers” from the earlier statements.
In response, Vice-President Wina said the perpetrators of the gassing crimes “are our children, our sons, daughters and they come from our homes. And it’s the responsibility of all of us to help the state to find the bases for all these crimes.”
She said home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo would give a full report on the gassing and other attacks.
She said what was happening in the country was extremely unusual and unnatural.
“We are saying this because these young people, some of them have not gone in secondary schools to learn chemistry or physics, how to mix the chemicals to expect a certain reaction. These are people who are given those chemicals and trained to use them and they are using them on fellow citizens. Surely, this should be a source of concern for everyone and I welcome the message from the Leader of the Opposition in House condemning this spate of criminality that we see in our communities. And I believe and hope that the message from Leader of Opposition is genuine,” said Vice-President Wina. “But condemnation from the leader should be welcomed and we believe this is the feeling of the members of his party because it took a long time for the UPND to condemn what is going on in the country but we do welcome this gesture and we hope that from now onwards, this house should be united in condemning these acts and also talk about peace in our country. We need to build peace and connect these bridges that connect us.”