Editor's Comment

Needless loss of life

HOW painful it must be for a mother, friends, relatives and members of the Kamanga community to lose one of their own so needlessly and so abruptly.  What is even more heart-rending in this case, and so many others, is that this death of a 22-year-old man could have effortlessly been avoided.
No amount of the blame game will bring this young man’s life back, but society must learn from this incident. It must of course identify all those that contributed to this death and hold them accountable accordingly. But society must also interrogate the circumstances that led to this loss of life.
The tough questions must not only be asked, but they must also be answered – correctly.
It is evident that the core of this problem is the apparent disregard of clearly spelt-out regulations on operating hours for bars and nightclubs.
Another certain challenge is how to best enforce the law without triggering ugly incidents as was witnessed in Kamanga Township, where some unruly members of the community destroyed public property in anger over the shooting to death of the young man.
There is no problem with the fact that there are many citizens whose preferred pastime is spending time in bars and nightclubs. The problem is that some of these have no regard for rules and regulations that go with operations of such outlets.
This was evident even before COVID-19 restrictions in this sector were eased.  Many patrons, in liaison with such business owners, defied the regulations with impunity.
Enforcement was often only possible when authorities were backed by a large number of armed police officers. A few policemen were often hapless against hordes of merrymakers. This is a shame because every citizen must respect authority, especially when a legal instruction is given.
Apparently, this is what could have happened in Kamanga. A handful of cops with a neighbourhood watch team was no match for a group of rowdy nightclub patrons.
The police say that a bullet was discharged in a scuffle between some of the patrons and a policeman. The bullet hit the young man and he died.
Two questions here: firstly, who was scuffling with the policeman? Whoever it was must be brought to book. You don’t challenge the authority in such a manner or situation in which the law is being enforced.
Secondly, were the police and the neighbourhood watch team sufficiently equipped and reinforced to effect enforcement of their mandate to close bars and nightclubs operating beyond stipulated hours?
It looks like these law enforcers fell short in their assessment of the situation weighed against the resources (especially human) they had.
In assessing such situations, it must be realised that it is virtually impossible to have a reasonable conversation with a horde of people who have been drinking for many hours. The best one can do is to engage the owner of the premises and put the matter on record for future reference.
The nightclub and the owner won’t be leaving, so they can be dealt with the following day with the evidence gathered on that night.
It is, however, unfortunate that it also looks like proprietors of such facilities seem to be getting away with a slap on the wrist. They are merely warned or made to pay a token fine and in no time they are back in full swing and probably even laughing in the faces of the law enforcement officers.
The punishment is not stiff enough considering that they are putting the lives of their patrons in danger. As it were, this danger is not only the coronavirus, but also a stray bullet.
Members of the community have also been getting away with the crime of damaging public property such us police posts.
There are numerous cases of police posts and cars being damaged by unruly members of the public in anger against what they consider as police abuse of authority. There aren’t that many, if any, cases of these culprits being brought to book and being made to face the full consequences of taking the law into their own hands.
This must change if citizens are to realise that there are civil ways in which to express their anger and actually get due justice.
And so as we mourn the loss of life in Kamanga, let’s also sit up and answer the questions on how best to prevent such a senseless and avoidable death.



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