CHOMA UPND member of parliament Cornelius Mweetwa described as state sponsored local terrorism the abduction, at gunpoint, by police of a party grassroots mobiliser Tom Silwiindi on Saturday.
Silwiindi was picked up by gunmen from his home in Choma and taken to an unknown location.
Yesterday before briefing the press in Choma, Mweetwa told The Mast that police have now taken responsibility for Silwiindi’s gunpoint “abduction” but had refused to disclose where they were holding him.
Mweetwa asked why the police on Sunday refused having knowledge of the abduction.
He said Silwiindi’s family was stressed.
Mweetwa said the Zambia Police operation was under the direction of President Edgar Lungu as Commander-In-Chief.
“As such the life and safety of Mr Tom Silwiindi is now accountable not just to the Zambia Police but to the Commander-In-Chief, President Edgar Lungu. And everyone is saying should anything happen to this Mr Silwiindi, Zambia Police and their Commander-In-Chief will have to account,” Mweetwa said adding that Silwiindi had gone two days without food.
He wondered why police did not issue a callout to Silwiindi, which he would have obliged to respond, as he was not a criminal.
He said Silwiindi had not committed any crime known to them.
Mweetwa said had police called him, he would have delivered Silwiindi to them instead of resorting to a kidnapping style, which was reminiscent of the UNIP days when people just disappeared.
He said Silwiindi’s family and the Choma community was wondering the motive of police refusal to disclose the location they were holding him.
“We are also asking; because from information we are gathering, this was an operation by the police intelligence unit. Why would they burn fuel from Lusaka all the way to Choma over somebody they would have summoned through Choma police without any difficulty?” Mweetwa wondered. “And they come and conduct a gunpoint style terrorism to someone in the presence of his children and wife who are now distraught!”
He said what police had done was confirmation of a police state where police could go and get someone without any evidence of identity.
“And yesterday we were thinking the abduction of Silwiindi was conducted under a criminal enterprise until now, the police have confirmed. We are now giving the police up to the close of day today to tell the nation, the family, the secret location where they are holding this person and the motive…they must disclose what he has done,” Mweetwa said.
He said currently, people were connecting Silwiindi’s arrest to political manoeuvres orchestrated by PF surrogates.
“Because if my memory serves me right, not too long ago, FDD president Edith Nawakwi was telling the nation…at a Chrismar Hotel briefing, commenting about the Kalomo farm and president HH, a matter which is in public domain – it was taken to court and the court threw it away,” he explained. “And in her discussion on that material day, this name of Tom Silwiindi was mentioned by Edith Nawakwi. The only suspicion we have now is that this action is in line with the name that Edith Nawakwi mentioned in her discussion about HH.”
Mweetwa challenged the police to disclose what Silwiindi had committed.
“As MP for Choma, I am giving them just today to disclose where they are holding him so we can provide legal services that he may require. If they don’t tell us by end of business today, tomorrow (today) they must prepare for action in various places across the country. And there is nobody who is going to mobilise, the central person who is behind, they shouldn’t even hunt for anyone else, it’s me,” he said. “And I am now, through you, informing the police that I have already begun mobilising not just in Choma. I have been in touch with our party officials across the country to prepare to rescue our colleague. I know that someone will rise up there and say this is illegal.” Mweetwa said what the police were doing now could not be substantiated by any piece of law known to him.
“There is no law which entitles the police to get an innocent citizen at gunpoint, speed off from his home, the whole day you are refusing that you don’t know anything then later you say ‘yes, but we can’t tell you where this person is’,” he said.
Mweetwa, a lawyer and former police officer, said there was a clear pattern of state sponsored terrorism, which started with an attack on Mapanza-based relatives of the Hatembos who sold farmlands to Hichilema, the raid on Hichilema’s in-laws’ farm in Shibuyunji by police and now the police abduction of Silwiindi.
He said people were now going to recede in the mood they assumed when police and government failed to tell them who was behind the gassing of citizens.
“We now also want to start putting in place mechanisms of rescuing our friends. The police have my number, they can find out what I am doing on the ground. I am mobilising, no secrets involved. The only thing I am requesting police is that they should beef-up their units because this is clear now after killing Joseph Kaunda, Nsama Nsama, it looks they are still blood-thirsty. We are willing to donate more blood to Zambia Police and their Commander-In-Chief,” Mweetwa said.
He said from the pattern of events, it was very clear that the political witch-hunt for Hichilema had intensified.
He said manoeuvres of abducting people like Silwiindi, who is connected to Hichilema, was aimed at hunting down the opposition leader.
“This is what they are looking for. We are aware of the panic mode that has crept in the PF ever since UPND held its peaceful, successful and flawless convention,” Mweetwa said. “And it produced a perfect outcome of a united party.”
He said PF hoped for division after the UPND convention.
“When we came out even more united and strong, they now started shamelessly going to anthills saying there were people who were intimidated to contest in the UPND. Can they produce a single person who was intimidated to contest against HH or anybody else in the UPND? It is them, we are now asking, can you also hold your convention so we see if you will allow everybody to participate the same way UPND did,” he said
Mweetwa said the nation already knows that the PF hounded out of the party Chishimba Kambwili over suspicion that he would challenge President Lungu at the convention.
He recalled that the PF also quickly rushed to Parliament to have Kambwili’s seat declared vacant.
He also said the PF had hounded out Kelvin Fube Bwalya for merely expressing interest to lead the party.
“We have not seen anything of that sort in the UPND. All these statements of UPND are intolerant, we have caught PF and their doomsayers wrong,” said Mweetwa adding that even over the Bill 10 fall, the PF said UPND would victimise those that supported the bill but nothing of that sort ever happened. “Have you ever heard or read anywhere that we have written a reprimand letter? Instead it is them; their members of parliament, some did not come to parliament that day because they were sick and some did not go to parliament because they did not support the bill, it is them who have been reprimanded. It is KBF who is being told that he will not contest, it was Kambwili who was hounded out.”