CHISHIMBA Kambwili says chief government spokesperson Dora Siliya must apologise for implicitly justifying ‘extrajudicial’ killings of gassing suspects.
At a joint media briefing at Siliya’s office on Wednesday, home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo said police officers world-over were trained and mandated to use guns to shoot at and disable dissidents in order to restore order.
At the same event, Siliya asked whether or not police officers shooting at people, in a mob justice culture, could be an abnormality.
Kampyongo noted that the State functioned through institutions like the police and that when police officers were doing their work, “they are mandated to use the equipment that you see them carry, including firearms.”
“But they are professionally trained as and when to use those firearms. They (police) assess; you see them using tear smokes and the people are being killed using different…These people that are being killed, we are talking about 46, by human beings, not using firearms,” said Kampyongo.
“So if those people can kill, what would stop them from killing a police [officer]? We have had some of our police officers injured….”
To buttress Kampyongo’s explanation, Siliya indicated that citizens should be comforted if the police shot at somebody in trying to restore order.
“What should discomfort us are criminal activities to continue. When you hear that the police have shot at suspects, that should give us comfort. It should not be an issue for anybody to start wanting to create politics and accuse government of so-called blood on their hands. To me that’s extremely narrow thinking,” Siliya reinforced.
“What should concern journalists is ‘why would somebody start saying government, you have blood on your hands [because] the police are shooting people’.”
She further pointed out that police officers did not want to shoot at people but to merely bring order.
“Should the police shooting [at] people in an investigation, in a crime, in restoring order be, in a mob justice culture be abnormal?” asked Siliya.
“Should that be an issue to say ‘government you’ve got blood?’”
But speaking to journalists at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court yesterday, opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC) leader Kambwili gave an abrasive summary of the minister’s commentary.
“Dora is confused and what she has said is a lot of nonsense!” Kambwili charged.
He wondered how a minister could opt for police shootings as a means of crowd control.
Kambwili added that Siliya could do better than her Wednesday showing.
“I condemn in strongest terms Honourable Siliya’s comment on extrajudicial killings. I’m extremely disappointed to hear a government spokesperson justifying extrajudicial killing by the police,” he said.
“Surely, Honourable Siliya you can do better than that. How can you say it’s better for the police to shoot [at] one person than allow a demonstration? What a minister! Bushe iwe wine mukashana Dora noko wafuma walifundwa fye bwino nangu (you woman, Dora, are you well cultured where you come from or) there’s something wrong with your head?”
Kambwili said there was nobody who was allowed to kill any Zambian.
He explained that all over the world, ‘extrajudicial killings’ were not allowed and that Siliya spoke against principles of her own government.
“We are told that when people are sentenced to death in Zambia, from about 20 years ago, nobody has been executed. But you allow the police to start executing people without proving them guilty in the courts of law!” Kambwili said.
“That is extremely disappointing [and] such people are not even supposed to be in government. Those police officers who do extrajudicial killings, whether justifiable or not are supposed to appear before a court for murder.”
Kambwili said anti-gassing protests were “simple demonstrations that can be quelled by tear gas, water canon.”
“[But] to kill somebody in cold blood [using] live bullets, in a demonstration…and the minister says ‘yes, it’s justifiable, it’s better to kill one or two people’ Ah! Please, President Edgar Lungu, analyse and look at these people that you appoint in government,” said Kambwili.
“I demand an apology from Dora for those people that have been killed. It’s not right. You can’t speak like that. Naimwe ba (even you) police don’t be encouraged to start killing people anyhow because Dora has said that.”
On February 13, Frank Mugala was shot and killed by police as he left school during protests in Chazanga in Lusaka.
The Zambia Police Service described the 15-year-old pupil’s killing as a “mistake” but says no charges will be brought against the officers who used live ammunition on protestors.