PRESS STATEMENT BY MR. KAKOMA KANGANJA, THE INSPECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE, ON THE SECURITY SITUATION IN THE COUNTRY, 22ND FEBRUARY 2020.
Members of the press, welcome to Police Service Headquarters for this update on the security situation in the country. We have called for this briefing so that through you the media, we can update the nation on this matter of grave concern both to the government as well as members of the general public.
We could have given this extensive briefing much earlier but for fear of jeopardizing investigations, we only released information cautiously at regular intervals. Now that we have made a lot of progress in investigations and effecting arrests, we are able to interact with the public through you the media.
In so doing, let me start by providing the background to this matter. The current insecurity being experienced in the country emanated from criminal attacks in Chingola district of the Copperbelt Province in which three families were victims.
As was indicated in the Ministerial Statement presented by the Home Affairs Minister in parliament, Police on 29th August, 2019, a family of six in Chikola area of Chingola district was attacked by unknown criminals armed with machetes in which four children aged between 4 and 12 years sustained serious injuries while their mother was allegedly raped and murdered. The attackers used windows to gain entry and to exit and were targeting mainly the unfinished houses.
The second attack occurred between the 15th of December, 2019 at 21:00 hours and 16th December, 2019 at 06:00 hours in Chikola loop in Chingola in which male Chanda Chama aged 9 years was attacked by criminals using a suspected metal bar and he sustained a painful left shoulder.
The third occurrence happened between 29th December, 2019 and 30th December, 2019 at 08:00 hours in Chikola loop in Chingola in which Levison Chongwe’s family sustained a deep cut on the forehead and Ruth Kambole , 22 his wife, also sustained a deep cut on her forehead and was strangled to death and raped.
Emanating from these incidents, one suspect was apprehended by the public who confessed that he was involved in the killings together with others whose names he mentioned. However, after investigations, the names mentioned were not connected to the occurrences. Further, a witch doctor was also named by concerned members of the public but investigations revealed that he was not connected to the offence.
The mode of operation (modus operandi) in all these criminal attacks was similar in that attackers targeted unfinished houses and never stole anything after attacking. Further the point of entry and exit from houses were windows. Riots started after a struggle to burry a body of one of the victims who was brutally killed and 29 rioters were apprehended.
Afterwards, on Wednesday, 8th January, 2020 between 08:00 hours and 19:00 hours, Chingola district experienced a series of riots in Chiwempala , Mwaiseni, Lulamba and Chikola townships. Consequently, the police apprehended a total of 158 suspects, among them, 102 males and 21 females for riotous behavior. These attacks where criminals could enter households and attack all members of the households brought insecurity and fear in members of the public and this sparked riots. 158 suspects were charged with riotous behavior in Chingola.
One other incidence which sparked riots was a scenario where police officers from Luanshya went to Chiwempala in Chingola to apprehend a suspect in a case of vandalism involving ZAMTEL cables. This suspect was later identified as a worker for the prominent businessmen in the area. Members of the public immediately linked the businessman to the deaths that were experienced in the area and set his house and other properties on fire and subsequently looted some shops in the area.
During this period, videos and audios, which were inciting in nature, flooded social media thereby raising fear and panic among members of the public. For instance, there were videos depicting events such as instant mob justice and murder which happened in other countries but were purported to be incidents of ritual murders happening in Zambia when in fact not.
Then the trend of chemical spraying emerged and spread to other towns of the Copperbelt where some incidences of public disorder were recorded and some public infrastructure, predominantly police infrastructure, among them Mabungo and Malaika Police posts in Luanshya, Luangwa in Kitwe and Mutenda police posts in Chingola were destroyed.
The crime trend then shifted from attacks on households where occupants were being hacked to Malicious Administering of Poisonous chemical substances with intent to cause harm, being referred to by the public as gassing or chemical spraying. This began from Chiwempala in Chingola district.
The incidences of chemical spraying later spread to North-Western Province where first reports were recorded in Munyama area and Lumwana East. This sparked riots in Kisasa area of Kalumbila District where a Power Tools Bus and a Nissan Hard Body had windows smashed and occupants attacked by a mob. As a result of this disturbance, 35 people were apprehended for riotous behaviour.
Due to this public disorder, Kakaindu Police Post in Kalumbila District and Kazomba Police Post were gutted by mobs. However, police managed to quell all the incidences of public disorder and have continued with investigations in the reports of alleged chemical spraying and malicious damage to public and private property.
The same type of crime wave was experienced in Lusaka in early February, 2020 with reports received from Lusaka Middle West. However, most of the initial reports were unverified as there were no visible effects on victims or chemical traces on the scenes. Nonetheless, on 13th February, 2020, suspected cases of chemical spraying were recorded in Chawama, Kanyama, John Howard, Chaisa and Matero townships where effects were evident on the victims. In reaction to these reports, members of the public took the law in their own hands and began attacking any person they suspected not to be a member of their community. In some instances, mobs went to police stations where they assumed suspects in chemical spraying were detained and demanded for their release so that they could be lynched. As a result of this, four police infrastructure were damaged namely Chipwalu, Kanyama West, Mumbwa Road Police posts and Kanyama Police Station still under construction.
Members of the public also blocked and damaged any motor vehicle spotted in their localities at night and assaulted the occupants. In most of such incidences, victims were rescued by officers on patrol while in some instances victims ran to safety.
Subsequently, incidences of chemical spraying were experienced in other parts of the country such as Eastern, Northern, Central and Southern provinces while Luapula, Muchinga and Western provinces had some reports which are still unverified.
People killed in instant mob justice were on mere suspicion especially in instances where a person involved may not be known in a particular community. In some instances, mental patients were victims of the instant mob justice. In Lusaka, most of the incidences of mob justice were sparked by illegal community security groupings on streets armed with an assortment of offensive weapons. The initiative by members of the public to equip themselves with whistles was with the aim of alerting other community members when attacked by criminals which was a good initiative which worked well in Chingola, however, in Lusaka the initiative was abused and led to innocent people being attacked by the public.
Another trend emerged where members of the community began blocking some public roads and searching motor vehicles for suspected chemicals which resulted in some motor vehicles being damaged. This conduct also instilled fear in the travelling public.
One of this kind was the incident experienced in an area between Kafue Gorge Turn Off and Shamikobo village in which nine people were apprehended for riotous behaviour and two were charged for being in possession of offensive weapons.
Another incidence was recorded in Chief Milambo of Milenge District in which civilian officers from ZNS were victims of such attacks after they encountered a mob that had blocked the road armed with all sorts of weapons such as spears and axes. The mob further burnt a motor vehicle, property of Zambia National Service.
In addition to these ugly scenarios of mob justice, on 19th February 2020, police took a victim of mob justice to Mazabuka Hospital for medical attention after suffering injuries, a mob reorganized themselves the following day and descended on the suspect who they pulled out of the Hospital and further beat him up and later set the body ablaze.
A similar incidence happened in Samfya where a mob damaged Mwewa community police post after police detained a suspect who was handed over to police by some community members for loitering around 21 30 hours. The mob injured police officers who were manning the post and managed to drug a suspect from the detention facility and burnt him.
This was just a sample of some of the encounters that police have had with mobs and it is disturbing to note that people can even go to an extent of going to a health facility where people with different ailments are being attended to, to drug a patient from Hospital and later kill merely on suspicion.
After analyzing the scenarios involving mob justice and the mode of operation, we went further in our investigations to establish what could have been motivating the mobs to behave in that particular way. During investigations, it was established that there were groups of people formed and spread in various parts of the country and that these groups were spearheading mob justice in communities.
An operation was conducted on 20th February, 2020 and apprehended five master minders in this particular issue of mob justice believed to have been influencing people in communities to kill and burn suspects. Among the suspects, three were picked from Kasisi area in Chongwe while two were picked in Lusaka’s Kanyama Compound and have been charged with Murder contrary to section 200 of the Penal Code. They are detained in custody and will appear in court soon. I am warning all those that have not been arrested yet that their days are numbered and soon they will be behind bars.
As a result of mob justice emanating from false alarm, a total number of 43 people have died across the country while 23 were injured.
Statistics further indicate that 511 reports connected to chemical spraying of poisonous substances on households have so far been received with 1,687 victims. 11 police infrastructure have been damaged countrywide as a result of public disorder. Some of our motor vehicles have as well been damaged. Also damaged is the Serenje administration block for the local authority and a Council guest house. Some private properties such as motor vehicles and guest Houses have not been spared.
16 suspects have been arrested in connection with the reports of chemical spraying of which some have begun appearing in courts of law. Some of these 16 suspects were behind criminal activities experienced in Chingola District on the Copperbelt as well as North Western Province. This points to some inter connection in criminals behind this spate of crime.
An investigation team comprising various stake holders has been constituted to conduct investigations and great progress has been recorded. A conclusive outcome of the investigations will be availed to the public when investigations are concluded.
With these developments, we are confident that instances of mob justice we have witnessed lately will now be under control.
I wish to inform the public that the security situation in some parts of the Country where there was public disorder such as Lusaka, Copperbelt and North Western Provinces has improved in that the number of reports involving members of the public taking the law in to their own hands have reduced. Also reduced are reports of chemical spraying in households. However, officers from Defence and Security Wings are alert and still monitoring the situation.
Suffice to mention that there are still security concerns in other parts of the country such as Luapula, Southern and Western Provinces where incidences of public disorder are still being recorded. I therefore call upon members of the public to desist from these acts of mob justice because anyone found wanting will be dealt with in accordance with the law.
Allow me to reiterate our warning to all those who are in the habit of abusing social media for hate speech and to alarm and cause fear in the country. We have warned before that days for such characters are numbered. In this regard, I wish to report that police in Chingola have arrested Mubanga Elizabeth Chirwa, a wife of a musician and charged her for the offence of seditious publication with intent to cause fear and alarm. The suspect was traced to be behind the audio that went viral in the social media claiming that Mulonga Water and Sewerage Company on the Copperbelt was contaminated with chemicals and called on people not to consume water from this utility. She was released on police bond and will be appearing in court.
Another suspect identified as Jimmy Bwembya, aged 23, was apprehended by the police in connection with the circulation of the video depicting a murder that happened in another country deceiving people that it happened in Chingola. Investigations pointed to this suspect who was later picked from Solwezi. And further investigations revealed that he was also behind one of the deaths recorded in Chingola and was on the run when the four other suspects were cornered. He has since been charged with murder, attempted murder and rape.
I want to conclude by assuring the country not to panic because the situation is under control. All the security wings are together working day and night to protect our communities. Further, let me seize this opportunity to thank all the patriotic Zambians who have been cooperating with us by giving us various leads which have led to these arrests so far. This should send a strong warning to those who still would want to engage themselves in criminal activities that there is no hiding place for them.
And for those abusing social media for hate speech, to insult and malign innocent people and indeed to cause fear and alarm in the nation, I can only promise that we are coming for you. The arrest of Mubanga Elizabeth Chirwa and Jimmy Bwembya is a clear demonstration that there is no hiding place in the cyberspace. We are on top of things.
I thank you.