Fellow Zambians, I want to speak to you about a cowardly and barbaric act against the Movement for Multiparty Democracy by some Zambia Police officers on Friday 18th December 2015 in Lundazi in Eastern Province. That date shall go down in Zambian history as a dark day when our democratic freedoms were eroded to an alarming degree.
We have taken a bit of time to react fully because we wanted to give time to the Police and in particular the President to react first, so that we know where they stand. But first some background.
Last week as I was addressing our party members during a peaceful indoor meeting in Lundazi, an overzealous Police officer, obviously acting on instructions from above, threw a teargas canister into our meeting and disrupted it. Every police officer knows that teargas should only be used when there is public disorder but there was no disorder or even threat of disorder.
This act by the Police was dangerous, reckless, uncalled for and could have led to loss of life. I wish to condemn the act in the strongest possible terms because it is unacceptable and belongs to the stone age. Did the Policemen think about the fact that there were women and children in that meeting? Did they think about the possibility that there could have been an asthmatic person in the meeting who could have been killed by the teargas?
We had also expected that the new Police Commissioner Mr Kakoma Kanganja would immediately act to suspend the officers who did this, pending a disciplinary hearing. Since he has not, we can safely conclude that everything that happened was done with his approval if not instruction.
We had also expected Mr Kanganja to apologize to the women and children who were teargassed but he has displayed extreme arrogance by claiming that the Police acted within the law since we supposedly did not inform the Police of our meeting in advance. This is a total lie because we did inform the Police in the entire Eastern Province a full ten days before we arrived and even The Post Newspaper reported this fact.
Among Mr Kanganja’s first acts as Police Commissioner is to do things worse than his predecessor Stella Libongani when he is just a few weeks on the job. How can a highly esteemed man like him can give false information to the nation that we never notified the Police? And even if we did not notify the Police, it does not justify the teargassing of innocent peaceful people. Mr Kanganja is a disgrace to the uniform he wears and to the Police service.
What made this teargassing incident even more outrageous is that the Police officers involved illegally attempted to stop our meeting, they proceeded to arrest my assistants Mr Clement Siame and Mr Friday Chipasha and made them appear in court the same day. It seems justice is very swift for the opposition but very slow when the ruling party is involved.
We shall however not take this lying down and we are commencing legal action against the Police officers who threw teargas at the people. For too long, we and other opposition parties have let such incidents slide and turned the other cheek, but now we are going to take on the Police so that they know that they cannot continue harassing us anyhow. I have already met with our lawyers and instructed them on what to do.
We expected the Republican President Mr Edgar Lungu to publicly apologize to the people who were teargassed and to all Zambians in order for us to believe that he is serious when he tells the Police to be professional. He has remained mute and we can also conclude that the teargassing happened with his approval, if not direct instruction.
All we have seen from the President this far are empty pronouncements while people are being harassed and teargassed and forced to hold meetings in the bush as we did in Mambwe District. We had Police in full riot gear all over Mambwe as if they were hunting the Mailoni brothers.
Fellow Zambians, we are alive to the fact that the vast majority of police officers in Zambia are simply acting on instructions from above which they know are wrong. They have families to feed and it is difficult for them to disobey their superiors lest they get fired. We really feel sorry for them being used in this sort towards the opposition. They are like a gun in the hands of an evil person. You cannot blame the gun but the one who fires it. The Police are victims of bad leadership and bad laws such as the infamous Public Order Act.
As the new MMD, we shall put a stop to Police harassment of opposition political parties and shall be a tolerant regime. We shall restore to our citizens all their fundamental rights and freedoms, which were procured at a high cost by those men and women that died in the struggle for independence. We will deliver real change to Zambian politics.
Nevers Sekwila Mumba