COLONEL Panji Kaunda says deploying the army on the streets amounts to abuse.
Commenting on President Edgar Lungu’s deployment of the army ‘to help police quell political violence’, Col Panji said ordering the army to patrol the streets when two people are murdered was not acceptable.
“Zambians must realise that we are in this mess where the President as Commander-In-Chief has forced the army to be patrolling in our streets. Let’s first look at the role that the army are supposed to play in the country. The army and the defence forces are supposed to defend the country from external…and when we have got an internal uprising or armed and the police and other agencies cannot manage, then the army comes in,” he explained. “But you cannot bring in the army into a political situation or it’s a murder case. Two people are killed badly then you call the army to come and patrol the streets. That is abuse of the army.”
Col Panji said the army were trained to shoot and kill legally and not to start searching cars for weapons of different type.
“We are in this mess because the government of ba Lungu by politicising police have failed the nation. The police are now like a party cadre. They can’t control anybody, they can’t arrest anybody from the PF, the only thing they are doing is arresting people from the opposition political parties,” he noted. “So as a result, the people are forced to defend themselves. I am not saying killing somebody is right. It is wrong but as a saying goes ‘kudziwa chagwetsa dzaye kuti Njobvu ithyoke mnyanga’ – the chewas say. What is the cause for this violence? The cause for this violence is that the police have been biased towards one side. Whenever a PF cadre does something they are never arrested but as soon as the people from the opposition cough, they are arrested for coughing.”
Col Panji said if the police were free and fair, issues of violence would not have been there.
“The police would have been arresting anybody who does violence as a criminal activity not as a party activity. I get worried when I hear our police say ‘we have arrested so and so suspected to be a PF cadre or an MDC cadre. That’s not it. They are supposed to take these people as law breakers,” he said.
Col Panji said the country was where it is because of the failure of the government led by President Lungu.
“The remedy now or in few days is to vote them out because they have failed us. Let’s vote these people out and put a serious guy ahead of us otherwise they are going to destroy the army the way they have destroyed the police,” he said. “These incidences that are happening here they are still police cases. They are not armed with guns and bombs. they are armed with machetes and knives and it is the police who are supposed to deal with that. They have got the police intelligence and, or that, they are supposed to detect that. This is a situation where there is a failure by the President as Commander-In-Chief to control the situation in the country and anybody who fails must face consequences.”
Col Panji said Zambians should punish President Lungu because he is the one who has failed.
“The consequence here is to change the government. I am not being political but being practical. We have got a few more days to go, I implore Zambians to keep calm. Let’s punish the one who has put us in harm’s way,” he urged. “Those are doing their work because they are trained to obey orders. Soldiers never disobey an order no matter how it is. Otherwise, don’t blame the soldiers for being in the streets, it’s their job, they have been ordered, they have no choice.”
Meanwhile, UPND spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said three weeks ago, UPND had information on deployment of soldiers across the country for purposes of elections.
He argued that it was not the Kanyama incidence that had prompted the deployment of soldiers.
“Soldiers deployed in Mumbwa five days ago. They were deployed in many areas of the country. We shall not question their operations because they have their own modus operandi, they may have information which we do not have,” he said. “But the question is this, in a democratic state like ours, wouldn’t it have been nice for us to know what the security challenge is for soldiers to deploy? …And who is fighting for soldiers to deploy?”
Mweetwa said in 2019 and 2020, the Zambia Police, through the national budget were allocated K11.1 billion to acquire armament.
He said the Zambia Police had been armed as if they were a paramilitary grouping confronting a dissident militia group in the country.
“They are heavily armed to the teeth against citizens who are not even armed with stones but are armed with the truth, telling the nation, telling a president, Mr President Edgar Changwa Lungu you are a failure, your leadership is anchored on a legacy of corruption, failure to create employment, issues to do with debt, political violence, political cadreism, failure to improve conditions of service, failures to pay retirees their money” Mweetwa said. “These are the stones Zambians are carrying, truth in their mouth and not stones or anything for Zambia Police to arm themselves in the manner they have armed themselves.”
He said it was commendable that the Zambia Army had deployed in Kanyama.
“I want to put it very clear, we the UPND Alliance have every confidence in Zambia Army because they have an enduring and excellent reputation locally and internationally in terms of their professionalism,” he said.
Mweetwa said the Zambia Army had served and maintained Zambia’s territorial integrity very well.
He noted that the Zambia Army had gone to international peace missions in Sierra Leone, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
“The report we have received about Zambia Army, Zambia National Service, Zambia Police is excellent in terms of their professionalism. Some of our colleagues unfortunately have lost their lives trying to serve humanity out there. We do not think that in this election Zambia Army are deploying to intimidate voters,” he noted. “We do not think the Zambia Army can sacrifice their good reputation for a party that has quickly lost the popularity among the citizens, that they must now go on the streets to intimidate voters, no.”
Mweetwa told people that when they see soldiers deployed around a polling station, they should be happy that they were safe and no one would tamper with their votes.
“This is what we need in this election and therefore we commend President Lungu for that decision,” he said. “Let Zambia Army deploy en masse especially in urban areas because we don’t want this mediocrity and lunacy by Patriotic Front where they send their cadres to go and harass poll staff, bring chaos around polling stations.”
He said an election properly guarded by Zambia Army would have integrity and that the UPND would accept its outcome.
Mweetwa said the UPND had noted the suffering of the men in uniform.
“When they deploy in UN peacekeeping missions, they get paid in US dollars. Government shares that money; government of Zambia shares a salary of a soldier, a salary of a police officer, a salary of ZNS officer 50-50 if not more,” he charged.
He said if given the mandate, the UPND would bring the bad practice to an end.
He said no one should ask to share a salary of an office on peace mission.
“Begin to imagine, those officers who lost their lives, did these government officials also contribute to that life, that they also suffered an injury…? Nothing. If you die, you die alone; if you get paid, you get paid alone. Therefore, no one should share the salary,” he said. “I have been in Parliament, there are members of parliament, they perform a lot of tours outside the country. Sometimes a minister would be out of the country for two months, they get paid a lot of money in dollars. Have you ever heard that government, minister of foreign affairs, I will use [Joe] Malanji because he is my brother, he is no longer going to be minister of foreign affairs unless HH nominates him…have you ever heard that minister Malanji has been out for two months, he has been paid say US $20,000 and Government of the Republic of Zambia is going to get US$10,000 off the minister or member of parliament, including me? Why should it be that when a civil servant, a soldier, a police officer goes to UN peacekeeping government comes in to share? This is theft by daylight.”
Mweetwa urged the soldiers to do what their Malawian counterparts did in that country.
A caller asked him if the UPND would bring on board the PF leaders like the PF have done with MMD and Mweetwa said not everyone in the ruling party was bad and corrupt.
He said some of the ministers and PF leaders were good and deserve a place in the next government.