UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa has challenged Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja to clarify whether or not police officers will be whipping people found drinking beer at drinking places amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mweetwa, a former police officer, is Choma Central UPND member of parliament and a lawyer.
Last week, Zambia Police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo sounded a warning to people that if they were going to be found in bars or drinking places during the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak, they would be whipped without warning.
Mweetwa found those remarks to be gravely concerning, disgraceful and that “excitement” prompted Mwaata-Katongo to make them.
“As UPND, we are gravely concerned about the statement. We find this outrageous because there is no law that empowers Zambia Police to begin whipping people if they are found breaking the law,” Mweetwa said in an interview.
“The law is very clear; even a murder suspect cannot be whipped by police. Such a person is just supposed to be apprehended and taken to court. So, if a person is found drinking in a bar against the presidential directive or Statutory Instruments that have been promulgated, we expect police to apprehend those people and take them to relevant authorities.”
He explained that the coronavirus outbreak had not changed the laws of Zambia.
“So, madam Esther Katongo, don’t be excited. There is no law that has been passed by the Parliament of Zambia in which police have been empowered to begin whipping people. Torture is not allowed in Zambia [and] extrajudicial measures have not been introduced as a result of this coronavirus outbreak,” Mweetwa said.
“Police should act within the law. No state of emergency has been declared for police to begin using means that are not prescribed. We expect the Inspector General of Police to respond and condemn this statement which, in my view, has arisen out of excitement.”
Mweetwa added that the fact that police officers wore uniform did not mean that they could even begin to make laws for Zambia.
He said police officers were there to enforce laws which were made by Parliament.
“I’m not aware of any law that the Parliament of Zambia has made which now empowers the police to begin to whip people. Let the police not begin to exacerbate the sufferings of the people,” Mweetwa advised. “We all want to work together, support the government of the day to ensure that we confront this coronavirus issue head-on. That does not in any way mean that the Zambia Police has accumulated extra powers. Who tells you to begin to whip people? We ask the Inspector General of Police to put the record straight.”
Mweetwa stressed that there must be: “no whipping of people!”
“You (Mwaata-Katongo) are even waving a baton! That baton can only be used in an event where you meet resistance. That is the only time police are permitted to use minimum force and any other measure of force, if need be,” said Mweetwa. “This kind of behaviour is what makes Zambia Police look bad. As a former police officer, I detest overzealous police officers who make the police look bad.”