Former Prime Minister Malimba Masheke says President Michael Sata is to blame for the current crisis in Western Province.
In strong worded statement issued to the Watchdog, the former army commander said said the crisis evolving in Mongu following the Police Service’s action to arrest and brutalize people suspected to have shredded copies of the Draft Constitution of Zambia is most unfortunate.
General Masheke saids that he takes ‘the view that this sad development emanates from poor and visionless leadership of the current Patriotic Front government which has fallen in the quagmire that has bedevilled previous regimes in as far as the issue of Barotseland is concerned.
‘President Michael Sata, in particular, takes special blame in this respect for being constantly inconsistent in word and deed on the matter’, General Masheke said.
General Masheke explained that prior to the 2011 general elections President Sata did undertake, during his campaign tour, to implement the Barotseland Agreement 1964 within ninety (90) days of his ascendance to power as President of the Republic of Zambia.
He said this promise from Sata was unsolicited by the people but was made voluntarily by him in his effort to portray himself to the people as a better person in comparison to his political competitors.
‘There is no question that some of the most ardent proponents of the issue of Barotseland took President Sata seriously and expected positive action from him after he ascended to the Republican Presidency,’ General Masheke said.
Masheke further explained that ‘Soon after his election President Sata took a diversionary route on Barotseland by appointing a Commission of Inquiry whose positive findings and recommendations he publicly rubbished even before he had studied its Report.
‘This conduct by a person holding the highest position of trust in the land has the effect of eroding peoples’ confidence in Public Officials and generates mistrust and ill-will among the people against government programmes.
‘Therefore, in as far as the negative attitude of most of people of Barotseland over the current process over the Zambian constitution is concerned President Sata is entirely and singularly to blame.
‘Accordingly, the President needs to clean up his game sooner rather than later to help restore orderly conduct of public affairs not only in Barotseland but the rest of the Republic of Zambia.’
On the brutality displayed by Police where one of the arrested suspects, a Mr. Sinonge, is reported to have been severely beaten while being taken into custody, General Masheke said that it ought to be borne in mind that suspects are innocent until proven guilty and the nature of punishment to be meted against them is only that which is pronounced by the court system.
He explained that the police have no power to determine the punishment against suspected offenders.
He said that Police brutality is an act of violence which only helps to escalate an already volatile situation to the detriment of society.
He urged the Government through the Minister of Home Affairs to quickly get on top of things in Mongu and ensure compliancy with the law by its officers as well as take action against bad elements within its rank and file.
He said he was told that the suspects have been moved from Mongu where the offence was committed and where their relatives are to Kaoma.
He said this is very bad and shameful. He said there is no difference from what former president Rupiah Banda’s Government did.
General Masheke said: ‘I condemn the whole action in the strongest terms possible’.
He said that all the thirteen suspects and others who may be arrested have the right to be taken to court within the time specified by the law and the Police Service is expected to act accordingly.