DO POLICE STATEMENTS ORIGINATE FROM THE PF SECRETARIAT?
By Kennedy Limwanya
As I listened to Zambia Police Spokesperson Esther Katongo’s statement two days ago regarding the incident that resulted in the shooting to death of two unarmed civilians, I found myself wondering whether to laugh or cry.
The statement sounded every bit like one that had been prepared for her from the Patriotic Front (PF) secretariat.
In this so-called Christian nation, Katongo’s statement, if at all it qualifies as such, should be termed as nothing but Satanic Verses.
Let us pick some paragraphs from the so-called statement thanking the bereaved families and the public at large.
“We further urge members of the public to restrain themselves from commenting on issues they may not fully understand because they may end up sympathising with perpetrators of the heinous crimes. Some criminal activities are beyond what meets the eye.”
At face value, Katongo is insulting our collective intelligence as a country on matters of public interest displayed in broad daylight.
She is saying only she and her cabal have the monopoly of knowledge to educate us on the deeper perception of the cold-blood murders we have just witnessed.
In other words, Katongo and her employers are telling respected institutions like the Law Association of Zambia, the Human Rights Commission, Amnesty International, Chapter One Foundation and ordinary citizens who have for a long time been apolitical that they should shut up.
Herein lies the problem.
Under the police that Katongo speaks for, the Zambian Constitution has been shredded as none of us have the fundamental freedom to hold an opinion, let alone express it.
If we do, Katongo and the police will warn us.
Isn’t this shameful?
Here is a reminder of the facts that qualify the public to hold the view that there could be PF cadres in police uniform who are always unleashed on the public whenever there is a gathering of opposition party members.
A video recording of a paramilitary police officer at the cenotaph, opposite Cabinet Office, pointing a gun at a learned counsel, shouting and screaming at him to stand still is poignant of a trigger-happy person.
If, for simply doing their job, an advocate can be pointed a gun at, how worse for a journalist, a public prosecutor, nurse or an ordinary person?
This is why Katongo should be reminded that we are well aware of the crowd-control tactics that are used on any group with divergent views from those of the ruling party.
The script is well known.
It is about beating ruthlessly, kicking with military boots, stepping on their heads, hitting them with gun butts and tear-gassing people in closed spaces (literally suffocating them) so that panic ensues and, in the confusion, a few are gunned down.
We know these tactics and we see them for what they are.
In case the police do not have footage of what the public saw, my advice to Katongo is that she should go online on YouTube and see for herself.
Thereafter, she can issue a sober statement.
In fact, the initial statement from Minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo in which he reportedly expressed remorse and promised “no more bloodshed going forward” is what is expected of a leader.
That statement somehow calmed the situation, albeit temporary, until the elected leader went off-tangent and annoyed the public in the statement on the fracas.
If Katongo is in doubt, she should just visit the social media pages of the elected leader and see for herself.
It is said, “You can’t fool all the people all the time.”
The Constitution that Katongo eloquently cites in her statement as giving the police the mandate to protect the people of Zambia is the same one that gives them, inter alia, the right to assemble, the right to hold and express an opinion, and the right to conscience.
Above all, and most importantly, the preamble in the Zambian Constitution says:
“WE, THE PEOPLE OF ZAMBIA:
ACKNOWLEDGE the supremacy of God Almighty;
DECLARE the Republic a Christian Nation while upholding a person’s right to freedom of conscience, belief or religion;
UPHOLD the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;
COMMIT ourselves to upholding the principles of democracy and good governance……”
Is Katongo, reading from the same Constitution that transformed her institution into a police service?
Lastly, Katongo should just go down memory lane to see how her predecessors conducted themselves in that office.
There were police spokespersons before her who, I would hazard a guess, shudder at the low levels the police public relations unit has plummeted to.
We had professional hardworking men in uniform such as Francis Musonda, Lemmy Kajoba, Elizabeth Kanjela, Bonnie Kapeso- the just-dropped deputy Inspector-General of Police (operations)- and the ever-calm Brenda Muntemba.
But is Katongo entirely to blame for the disjointed statements she is forced to read on behalf of Kakoma Kanganja’s Zambia Police?
To be fair with Katongo, the tone of her statements appears similar to the ones the PF has been blowing from its secretariat.
Not unclearly, the agenda for the police could be coming from the PF secretariat.
This assertion may, well, be disputed.
But the question still remains: Do Esther Katongo’s political press statements originate from the PF secretariat?