I am lost to find words to describe what is happening in our country; the gassing of our innocent Zambians especially school going children is shocking and defiles logic.
The reaction of our people to the suspects of gassing has also been horrific and heartbreaking. The gassing which started in Chingola, on the Copperbelt has become a nationwide crime and our security wings appear to be stretched. Many cases of gassing are being reported simultaneously and instance mob justice killings are also being reported in many places in the country.
The Zambia Police on February 22, 2020 put the death toll from mob justice at 43. In my opinion, this number could be much higher if the deaths caused by the police in their guest to quell riots related to the gassing are also counted.
I have taken time to write on this issue because I have been failing to understand what was going on. Even now, I fail really to understand what this is all about. I have questions that need to be answered by government and the security wings. How could we fail to know people behind theses atrocities when we have arrested so many suspects? What is the motive behind the gassing of people?
I have noted that many people so far have been arrested in connection with gassing. Those that were arrested in Chingola have even started appearing in courts. If we have some people arrested, does it mean these people have not told our security wings who is the mastermind? No, I fail to believe that our security wings do not have such information. Those arrested should point to the people or organisations funding this evil act.
I heard that some of the people involved in gassing schools are small boys (school going) and claim to be paid as much as K2, 500. So, who is paying them? I know that the police on February 22, 2020 said they had not found the masterminds behind gassing, but they just arrested someone who was paying the gassers. If we have a person who was paying people to gas others why can’t he/she tell us who has been funding the whole terrorism act?
I am really perplexed at how our government and security wings are handling this issue. I have also failed to believe that the Office of the President (OP) can fail to track the people behind gassing. OP can easily gather information and pass it to the arresting agencies such as the police to act.
I have also been wondering, what could be the reason behind gassing people even in the day. Schools are being gassed in broad day light. I think the idea is to instill fear in our people. The gassers are not killing and drawing blood as it was speculated when the gassing started on the Copperbelt. I think it is just about inflicting and instilling fear in our children in schools and colleges.
Many Zambians could remember that in 2017, we had a spate of fires in the country; it started with the burning of Lusaka City Market and the blame was squarely put on the opposition party, the United Party for National Development (UPND). I remember the Vice President, madam Inonge Wina crying and openly accusing UPND to be behind the fire that rocked the country.
The PF government declared a threatened state of emergency, many UPND cadres and officials were arrested but never even entered court. I fear this gassing situation could lead to what happened in 2017 where innocent people were arrested when the true criminals who burnt down our infrastructure never faced justice.
From what PF officials and what Vice President Wina said in Parliament, I smell a rat. The Vice President in Parliament on Friday, 21st February, 2020, said that the people behind the gassing wanted regime change.
I found the Vice President to be hypocritical because some of the suspects arrested by police in connection with gassing are PF officials. Is madam Wina aware that one of the suspects of gassing who is already appearing in court is a PF Chingola Constituency official? Does it mean that within PF, some people want regime change? If there is agitation for regime change within PF, why should every Zambian including our children get endangered by PF political infights?
The Vice President seems not to know what to say in critical situations; she does not watch her mouth. Zambians expect better from her. From these utterances from PF officials, very soon or later, the state of emergency could be declared. And innocent people especially opposition figures could be arrested and remain in detention without trial.
As I conclude, I wish to urge our people to refrain from killing the suspects of gassing. There is no justification for killing someone you have arrested; hand them over to the police. To our security wings, please conclude the investigations quickly and arrest the brains behind gassing. This is because gassing and mob instance killings will only stop when the masterminds are arrested. To government, I wish to say that I hope this is not another 2017 episode where our markets were burnt down and no one faced justice. To those who torched our markets and never faced justice, I say umulandu taubola (you can never run away from justice); one day you will face justice. God bless our country!
The author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia, department of Library and Information Science.