NANCY SIAME, Lusaka
MINISTER of Home Affairs Stephen Kampyongo told Parliament yesterday that four police officers have been arrested and charged with manslaughter following the death of Zambia Air Force flight sergeant Mark Choongwa in March this year.
Sgt Choongwa died in police custody at Woodlands Police Station on March 18 after being detained for an alleged traffic offence.
Mr Kampyongo said the arrest of the four officers followed recommendations by a joint inquiry tasked by President Lungu to investigate the death of Sgt Choongwa following a directive.
He said this in a ministerial statement on the findings and recommendations of the joint inquiry into the death of Sgt Choongwa.
“The inquiry comprised 14 officers drawn from the ministries of Home Affairs and Defence who conducted investigations for three weeks during which 24 witnesses were called,” Mr Kampyongo said.
The minister said from the report submitted by the inquiry, police officers used excessive force to get Sgt Choongwa in custody after an alleged traffic offence and that there was negligence on the part of the officers which led to his death.
He said the inquiry established that Sgt Choongwa’s death was as a result of trauma and stress while in custody.
“There was no malice aforethought to murder the deceased, hence them (police officers) being charged with manslaughter,” Mr Kampyongo said.
Mr Kampyongo said the joint inquiry recommended that the relationship between the police and defence be hormonised to prevent similar occurrences in future.
He said Government has accepted the report from the task force and has urged the men and women in uniform to treat each other with respect and stop having negative perceptions of one another.
“The service chiefs must ensure that unity exists between the men and women in uniform,” Mr Kampyongo said.
And Mr Kampyongo said the four suspects arrested earlier for causing the death of Sgt Choongwa will continue appearing in court until the case is exhausted.
He was responding to Nchelenge member of Parliament (MP) Anthony Malama (PF), who wanted to find out if the other suspects implicated in the case have been set free.
Mr Kampyongo said Government shall continue to ensure that officers who derail from their professional line are dealt with accordingly.
He said this in response to Senanga MP Mukumbuta Mulowa (UPND), who accused Government of protecting the police’s wrongdoing.