VICE-PRESIDENT Inonge Wina has told Parliament that the government has “some leads” on people behind the ongoing gassing incidents.
In the last one month, there has been a countrywide spate of gassing of innocent citizens.
Responding to a question from Mumbwa UPND member of parliament Credo Nanjuwa who asked why the government had not set up a ministerial committee to handle gassing incidents like they did with cholera in 2018, Vice-President Wina said culprits would be arrested soon.
“This is a countrywide phenomenon. In fact, the ministerial committee is already in place to handle this matter. We know that the purpose of this gassing is to destabilise government, to cause civil strife and fear in the citizens,” she said yesterday during the Vice-President’s question time. “Already we have some leads that indicate some of the people who are involved in this. It is a systematic plan, the police are on it and very soon the culprits will be arrested.”
Asked by Chitambo PF member of parliament Remember Mutale if the government could consider suspending Parliament so that members could retreat to their constituencies and help police in sensitising the public on such matters, Vice-President Wina answered in the negative.
“There is no need to suspend Parliament and its operations. There are many ways in which members of parliament can communicate to their constituents without necessarily suspending Parliament,” she said. “And this mob justice we see is fuelled by people who spread false information. It’s a conspiracy, we’re aware. There are people behind this, there are masterminders (sic).”
And when asked by Lufwanyama UPND member of parliament Leonard Fungulwe what chemical substance was being used to gas people, Vice-President Wina said: “The mixture of chemicals will be analysed by technical people. It is a very sensitive matter, a matter of national security.”
However, her response drew heckles from opposition members of parliament.
Murmurs and heckles from opposition members of parliament and counter reactions from those on the Executive side interrupted Vice-President Wina’s further response, until Speaker of the National Assembly Patrick Matibini calmed the situation.
Mwembeshi Independent member of parliament Machila Jamba reminded Vice-President Wina that even in 2018 she claimed to have known the people behind the spate of arsons, but no one was ever prosecuted and jailed for the offence.
When Jamba challenged her why police were not arresting culprits who she again claimed to know, Vice-President Wina responded: “Indeed, they were arrested but all of them were acquitted. In the current situation, I’m not saying we know them. Yes, they are there, we have leads, but I’m not saying we know them. These plotters are not working in one isolated area, they are spread across the country. They were trained, equipped and sent to districts.”
Earlier, Kalomo UPND member of parliament Harry Kamboni asked Vice-President Wina why gassing suspects were not being taken to court.
But she said investigations were ongoing.
“Mr Speaker, it takes time to investigate cases that are so widespread. And by taking a culprit to court one has to go through many processes. And when these processes have satisfied the prosecutors, then the case will be taken to court. Investigations are still continuing,” Vice-President Wina said.
Asked by Shang’ombo UPND member of parliament Mubika Mubika why the government was not engaging Russia to train Zambia Police officers in handling matters such as gassing, Vice-President Wina said the institution had capacity to handle the situation.
“Mr Speaker, this government has signed memoranda of understanding with many countries, and for capacity building in the various sectors including training the police,” she said. “So it is not new that the government should ask the Russian government to help in the investigations of gassing or any other government for that matter because we believe that our police institution has the capacity to undertake this exercise.”
Asked further by Zambezi East UPND member of parliament Brian Kambita why the government was not engaging independent investigators outside the country to help deal with gassing cases, Vice-President Wina said the government had confidence in the Zambia Police Service.
“…It is shocking that some people do not have confidence in their own institutions. Why mistrust your own people in preference for foreign interventions?’’ asked Vice-President Wina.