SACCORD Statement on Police Brutality
The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) is disappointed with the conduct of the Zambia Police Force officers who disrupted a peaceful demonstration by the United Party for National Development (UPND) in Lusaka yesterday. We are particularly surprised that the commissioner of police for Lusaka province conducted herself like a highly rewarded cadre in the way she came out regarding the demonstration and the illegal orders she was giving to her officers to brutally attack the youths who were protesting yesterday.
The current Public Order Act has in the past received two Supreme Court interpretations in the cases of Mulundika and Six Others versus the State and the case or Resident Doctors Association of Zambia versus the State. In both interpretations, the Supreme Court put it very clear that the police have a responsibility to protect citizens when they hold processions and that the police have no powers to license people’s processions and by extension license people’s rights.
It was rather very surprising that in its response to the UPND notice, the police used colonial era reasons to stop the organisers from going ahead with their procession with a well-known lie that there were people who wanted to disrupt the event when in the actual fact it was the police themselves who had planned to disrupt the event. We urge the police for follow the law which clearly states that organisers only need to notify the police of their intentions to hold processions and in no way does the public order act give the police the license to go out and practice brutality.
We want to advise the Zambia Police and Ms. Katanga in particular that her levels of excitement are a source of major concern. She is clearly acting unprofessionally and seeking to take public matters personal. Ms. Katanga must realize that police brutality is wrong and human rights violators will not be allowed to go scot free in this country. If she thinks she has protection now, let her wait until tables turn for her to realize how inhuman and illegal her actions were. Her orders to her officers to brutally attack youths yesterday is a clear violation of human rights and takes away from some of the progress the country had made to reduce police brutality.
The conduct of the police shows its continued lack of respect for the human rights of citizens who do not hold views that are supported by the party in government. All citizens must be allowed to enjoy their rights even when their actions may be political in nature. Zambia is a party to several international instruments that seek to promote and protect civil and political rights and the conduct of the police has the potential to dent Zambia’s image internationally.
We would like to further urge the Minister of Home Affairs and the Inspector General of Police to guarantee the protection of the rights of all citizens including political opponents of the state. This is a democracy and democracy calls for divergence in views which requires tolerance among all players including the powerful ones towards those that may seem weak.