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POLICE STATE?

Zambians might as well admit that they are under a police state than deceive themselves that the rule of law exists.

What is now clear is that the police can do whatever they want oblivious to the provisions of the law and even common decency.

The manner in which former President Egar Lungu’s barber, Shebby Chilekwa has been handled by Police raises a lot of questions.

For a start, Police have defied a court order directing them to take Mr Chilekwa, to the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) for medical attention in the presence of his lawyers.

On Friday, High Court Judge Mwape Bowa ordered that Mr Chilekwa, who is alleged to have been tortured be admitted to the UTH for medical attention.

This was after his lawyers, Makebi Zulu Advocates, applied to the Lusaka High Court that he receives medical attention.

But in a dramatic twist of events, Police instead drove him to Kaoma where they took him to the district hospital in the absence of his lawyers.

However, according to the affidavit in support of summons to review the order of the court, signed by Police Superintendent Maxwell Timba, the State said the order was overtaken by events and it was unnecessary and costly to bring the applicant from Kaoma to Lusaka when he was being attended to in a government medical facility with the same amenities as UTH.

They said the suspect was driven to Kaoma because he was required to be charged from the place where the offence is alleged to have been committed.

“Causing the suspect to travel for circa 400 km from Kaoma to Lusaka, and then taking him back will not only delay the criminal procedure of the arrest in the place where the crime is alleged to have been committed, but also will endanger his life for which the state would be held responsible,” the affidavit reads.

It is likely that the police were playing “hide and seek” with Mr Chilekwa’s lawyers, who did not even know where he was being held.  All that the nation was told when he was picked was that he was being held at an undisclosed location.

This is exactly the way Police behaved when former minister of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo was apprehended over an incident in Chinsali a few years ago.

Without the knowledge of his lawyers, Mr Kampyongo was bundled into a police vehicle and driven to Chinsali in the dead of night where he appeared in court.

The same fate befell former Defence Minister Davies Chama.  After days of being in police cells without being charged, he was driven across the country to Livingstone then Sesheke for an alleged murder case which was subsequently reduced to threatening violence. 

We are appalled over the continued abuse of citizen’s individual rights by the country’s law enforcement agencies and this must not be accepted as the “new normal.”

Much as the police have the mandate to ensure there is law and order in the country, and that they have powers to arrest any suspect, it is their growing tendency to arrest and detain citizens for days on end without charge.

This the more reason why the Catholic Archbishop of Lusaka, Bishop Alick Banda has been compelled to ask  President Hakainde Hichilema to prevail upon the police to stop arbitrary arrests and torture of victims.

His concern arose out of his concern that Zambians were having their rights abrogated under the guise of police investigations.

Archbishop Banda was right to remind the Zambia Police that they should be guided by the policy directive given by President Hichilema to respect the rule of law and human rights. But it now clear that Police have their own operational manual that do not pay heed to what the Head of State is saying about their operations.

It is a sad state of affairs that court orders have no bearing on the Police.  They can cook up stories with impunity to justify their conduct.

Zambians must not accept a situation where the police start to act as a law unto themselves, not even answerable to the courts.

That is a one-way ticket to a Police State.

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