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Matomola Likwanya is a political prisoner and must be freed

When President Edgar Lungu paraded the police command at a press conference informing us that the police is now working on reforming itself, we knew that the President was bluffing, lying, or did not mean any words flowing from his mouth.

A commitment to the rule of law is not a suggestion of convenience. The constitution exists to provide rights and liberties to our people because the state, with its insatiable access to guns and nuclear weapons, is prone to abuse those rights. The law has provided safeguards regarding how we must treat criminal suspects among us. The law gives the police direction of how many days they can detain a person without affording such a person a court appearance.

It has now been over 21 days. And Mr Matomola Likwanya has been held at Kabwata Police for all these days without appearing in court and without having the police charge him with a crime. Again, we must ask an obvious question: how could it be that this state would incarcerate a citizen of this nation without doing the mere decency of charging them with a crime? What has happened to the rights that our people are entitled to? What has happened to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty by a competent and impartial tribunal? We find no reason why Mr Likwanya should be arrested and detained for such a long time without trial. We are therefore appealing to the Zambia Police to stop this nonsense and release this young man forthwith.

Further, if this gentleman has committed a crime, we kindly request this police service to charge him and bring him before a magistrate. There is no reason why the police should be arresting a citizen of our country, detain him for weeks, and do so with such impunity.
We understand that Mr Likwanya is hoping to challenge Ms Tasila Lungu as Ward Councillor for the Nkoloma Ward. Mr Likwanya comes from that ward. He lives in Misisi Compound. He understands the struggles of Nkoloma Ward’s people, and it is this passion to serve the people that he threw his name in the ring and decided to stand as a civic leader. These events, we understand, led to him falling in bad graces to the princess who feels like Nkoloma Ward belongs to her. In no time, the police had to cook up stories to implicate this young man. Now that they have no reason to detain him – they resorted to the colonial system of illegal detentions. Mr Likwanya has been in jail for too long. Deciding to challenge the ruling PF and its beloved princess cannot be the reason for his detention. Zambia is a democracy. And no matter how princely Ms. Tasila Lungu Mwansa feels about herself, she must know that we will not tolerate the use of police powers to detain and imprison her opponents – for no reason other than to want to serve their people.

There can be a lot that can be said about the Likwanya detention. Young men are being arrested at will. Lozis and Tongas are facing the greatest brunt of the state’s action. As we speak, several civic leaders from Southern Province have also been in detention for weeks – without trial and charge. This is unacceptable in our country, and we must register our collective displeasure. We will not live in a nation where we think that this is normal or routine. And so we must send a clear warning to the Patriotic Front – please follow the law. Do not lead the peaceful citizens of this country into disastrous temptation. There is only one way to govern this republic – and it should be in a democratic manner that promotes good political competition. Those who commit crimes must account for their crimes and must have their day in court. But we will not tolerate this idea that the police will have the freedom to terrorise our people and detain them without cause.

Mr. Likwanya is a young man from Misisi Compound. He has a great passion for serving his ward. He is a member of the opposition party. He is our brother and son. And we must all encourage that spirit of freedom to flourish. We must not break the young’s spirits because if we do – we will have no future in this nation. We must not break the spirits of the young because these young ones will be noted very soon. And the seeds we are planting in them will either mend or break the future of our country. There should be no reason why we should injure the young’s spirits, incarcerate them for no reason and even remotely think that we are doing a service to God.

Talking of God – this government has claimed to be the government of God. A Christian Government. What else demonstrates Christian love than following our laws and criminal procedure? How can we justify our Christian faith if we are willing to tolerate abuse of police powers? Here we stand together, lifting our “holy” hands, and yet several of our citizens are in jail for days without affording them a judge or access to a courtroom? Our hands are not holy – no. Our hands are drooling with confusion and may drip with blood very soon – the blood of the young that we are incarcerating without recourse to our laws and our constitution.

A lot can be said. But we hope that the government will move quickly to release Mr Matomola Likwaya immediately.

Elias Munshya can be reached at elias@munshyalaw.com

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