AFTER months of hush, except his Facebook and off-the-cuff airport runway remarks on gassing, President Edgar Lungu used Parliament yesterday to tell perpetrators of the vice that they will be “crushed and buried.”
The occasion was the President’s address to the National Assembly on progress made in the application of national values and principles, as per Article 9 (2) of the 2016 amended Republican Constitution.
The President entered the Chamber at 09:50 hours and then led members of parliament in observing a minute of silence, in honour of deceased Chilubi PF member of parliament Rosario Chailunga Fundanga.
Fundanga died on November 20 last year.
He also congratulated Fundanga’s successor, PF’s Fube Mulenga.
President Lungu said it was now more than three months since Zambia woke up to a horrible reality of gassing from unknown people.
He said those unknown gassers do not only inflict physical harm but also applies psychological warfare on Zambians.
As known to everyone, President Lungu indicated that the launchpad of gassing was Chingola but that since then, “many parts of Zambia have experienced this inhuman phenomenon of gas attacks on our people, often culminating in loss of lives at the hands of mobs – all acting in the name of community justice.”
“These combined attacks have triggered irrational mob attacks on suspects, vandalism of public property, death of innocent lives and constant fear among our people in many communities,” President Lungu said. “Mr Speaker, we have witnessed merciless killings of innocent people, not only in Chingola but also other parts of our motherland, Zambia. We have equally witnessed merciless reactions from citizens after these killings. We have witnessed spraying of chemicals on families, school children and the public, in general.”
He added: “we have witnessed repulsive reactions by citizens, including stoning and burning of suspects.”
“We have seen horrifying pictures on social media [and] we have also witnessed mass hysteria – people reacting violently to rumours of attacks,” he said, adding that in excess of 50 people have been murdered by various mobs across the country.
“About 24 people or so have survived, either saved by security people or good Samaritans such as traditional or religious leaders.”
In view of the gassing episode, the President, conveniently or inconveniently toughening his tone, promised that State shall “catch up with these enemies of the people and isolate them from the Zambian population.”
“That I say and I promise! It might take a while but we will get you,” President Lungu said.
He then thanked the men and women in uniform for their gallant efforts to restore order and peace, following uncertainty instigated by gassing.
President Lungu was quick to note that security personnel’s work: “is not over, neither is ours.”
“As Commander-In-Chief of the defence force and Head of State and government, I want to promise Zambians that the enemies of our people will be crushed and buried. To this effect, I’m seriously considering constituting a Commission of Inquiry to get to the bottom of these gassing attacks,” President Lungu said, with his voice drowned with applause from his think-alike in the House. “Be rest assured that all the culprits will be brought to book, regardless of their standing in society. The enemy will surely be defeated and life will return to normal for our people, sooner rather than later.”
President Lungu further noted that Zambians deserved to live in peace and that no amount of blackmail would stop the law from catching up with the criminals, “whether they are political, religious or mere criminals.”
“Those who are saying one has been arrested because he belongs to that particular political party are wasting time. We are dealing with criminals here! Criminality comes in no colour and the law is blind, anyway,” he said.
Earlier, President Lungu regretted that, in some cases, some traditional leaders and Church leaders had either directly or indirectly fuelled and instigated mob attacks, related to gassing.
“As if that is not enough, in the ensuing confusion police have also shot people. Some of those who have died in the most unfortunate circumstances include school boys such as Frank Mugala aged only 14 and Sydney Moonga aged 17,” President Lungu said. “The deaths of these two boys and other citizens are incomprehensibly regrettable and my heart goes out to the bereaved families. This is what the enemy achieved in their efforts to destabilise our peaceful nation.”
He said 26 suspects had so far been arrested and that investigations were still going on, “while the security situation in the country has generally improved.”
“It has been observed, however, that the enemy has shifted focus to the rural areas where now false information is being given to the public with a view to inciting citizens to rise and cause public disorder,” President Lungu said.
“Let me thank the headmen, headwomen, religious and community leaders, civil servants and individual citizens who have played a major role in rescuing victims that have almost been lynched by mobs.”
He underscored his commendation of good Samaritans, during gassing mob attacks, and that their gestures amounted to patriotism and good.
“In the same vein, let me strongly warn those headmen and women, religious, civic and all community leaders encouraging mob justice that the law will soon catch up with you,” said President Lungu.