The Youth Day celebrations yesterday turned bloody in Lusaka when Patriotic Front cadres beat up their UPND youths while Vice-President Inonge Wina, PF secretary general Davis Chama and youth minister Vincent Mwale were cheering from the VIP shelter at the Freedom Statue.
And the PF cadres badly beat up Post photojournalist David Kashiki, damaged his camera, stole his two phones and a wallet after they saw him taking pictures of their attack on UPND.
Mostly clad in Zambia Air Force and Zambia Army combats, the PF cadres arrived at the Freedom Statue minutes before marching began, but got angry after noticing that the UPND youths were given a marching procession slot in front of them.
After hundreds of youths from various schools and organisations marched past the saluting dais, the event organisers stopped the procession to allow Vice-President Wina, who had been standing for hours, to take her seat.
It was at this point that the cadres started shouting saying, “Nibamayo besu, boma ni boma, boma ipite, siungalese boma (she is our mother, government is government and you can’t stop government).”
“This is our town, and there is no way that UPND cadres can be in front of us during this march past. We will march to HH’s house and he will not be at peace when we reach there,” Kamba was heard saying, before the cadres jumped off their vehicles and confronted the UPND youths.
“Boma ni boma iwe! Choka apa, choka (government is government, you get out of here)” said one of the PF cadres as the UPND youths refused to move.
This angered the PF cadres who then started slapping and kicking the UPND youths who were resisting their commands.
The PF mob, however, grew bigger and some pulled out pangas from their vehicles and started hacking the UPND youths who were unarmed and overpowered them.
The PF mob then grabbed UPND regalia from its supporters and started burning it while chanting President Edgar Lungu slogans.
Several people, among them school pupils, who turned up for the celebrations, were caught up in the fracas that forced police to fire tear gas to stop the clashes.
But this only made the situation worse as it left many pupils fainting, their teachers chocked, while the PF cadres took advantage and beat up everybody they saw trying to run away.
Later, Kamba, in the company of many other muscular PF cadres, took over the manning of two tents where Vice-President Wina, Mwale, Chama and senior ruling party officials were seated.
And photojournalist Kashiki who had been taking pictures at the event, failed to run away after the nearby PF cadres noticed him.
The cadres beat up Kashiki, threw him in a drainage where they continued kicking him,while demanding to know which media house he was working for.
One of the PF cadres pulled his trousers and tore it as he stole his wallet and two mobile phones.
Another cadre grabbed the camera and tried to get away with it, but Kashiki held on until the lens was broken and detached.
Meanwhile, when Kashiki went to get a medical report at Lusaka Central Police, officers roughed up Post news and deputy managing editor Joseph Mwenda who had accompanied him.
An officer identified as a Mr Sapinda asked Mwenda to stop taking pictures of Kashiki, saying he had taken enough already, and further asked him to delete the images. Sapinda is the same officer who last Saturday denied Post editor-in-chief Fred M’membe access to visit UPND vice-president for administration Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, who is facing a charge of unlawful drilling.
However, a group of police officers who were bringing in arrested suspects from the Youth Day fracas, turned on Mwenda after seeing him arguing with Sapinda.
The officers roughed up Mwenda, threatening to beat him and lock him up before Sapinda pushed him into a criminal investigations office where he was told to leave the camera with another officer identified as Mangala and leave the police station.
Nsofwa explained that he could not allow Mwenda to show the faces of the officers dealing with the PF cadres’ case because they would lose their jobs.
He asked Mwenda if he was interested in protecting the jobs of police officers, but Mwenda said he had no capacity to do so.
“How can I protect your job, I have no capacity to do that, I have explained to you what I came here to do and I have explained to you why I was taking pictures. This is not the first time, we have taken pictures of politicians inside the police station and published them on the front page of the newspaper, what has changed today?” Mwenda asked.
He said the police were strangely unleashing their wrath on journalists instead of protecting them.
“I was taught in Journalism school that when you are under attack, covering an event, run to the nearest police officer or police station for safety. It is your duty as police officers to protect our lives, regardless of which media house I represent. That is what we expect from the police and my mission here was to show that the police officers handled the matter professionally, but look at how I was roughed up by your officers down stairs,” Mwenda told Nsofwa.
But Nsofwa explained that it was not right to publish faces of police officers who handle certain sensitive cases.
“You are in my territory, you cannot just come here and start taking pictures of police officers working, you are jeopardising the investigations… Look I am going to tell you facts, I don’t care if you write or not, this is a police station, when you show the face of the police officer dealing with that case, are you protecting his job? …will you be happy if they lose their job because others will know that it’s this officer who is the dealing officer? You need to protect our jobs also, not showing their faces like that and you journalists in Zambia don’t have the courtesy of blaring the faces of people who should not be seen in the picture… so I am deleting the pictures, we have agreed and I have told you why,” Nsofwa said.
When Mwenda told him that his explanation meant that the police were not working independently, Nsofwa said he could not comment further.
“I have already told you, that one I will not comment. We do our job and we do it professionally,” he said.
Mwenda then told Nsofwa that he had software which he would use to retrieve the deleted pictures, and the officer said he was aware.
“I am an IT person so I know that you will retrieve the pictures, but at least I will say I did what I could and deleted the pictures,” said Nsofwa before releasing Mwenda after close to an hour at the police station.
At UTH, doctors and nurses worked tirelessly attending to hacked UPND cadres who filled up the corridor at the casualty section.
UPND supporters, Kennedy Chulu, Ben Mbewe, Jester Matambo and Priscilla Mulenga sustained serious cuts in the head and were still bleeding, while a schoolgirl identified as Charity had her face and shoulder bruised.
According to a medical report issued to Kashiki, he “sustained a neck injury, bruised left elbow, swollen eye after being beaten by cadres around 10:00 hours”.
Kashiki was given an injection to ease the pain and some antibiotics.