Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA
AS 2018 closes its curtains today to give way to 2019, there are so many things that the year will be remembered for.
However, this article brings out the highlights in the service of the Zambia Police Service from the public’s perspective.
2018 will go down in history as the year when a number of police officers were caught pants down in acts of corruption.
Though for a long time the police service has been associated with corruption, this remained a mere perception because there was no tangible evidence to pin corrupt men and women in uniform.
However, it’s thanks to new technology which has made it possible to capture evidence on the scene of crime.
In 2018 we saw a number of videos involving corrupt acts of police officers go viral on social media.
Just two weeks ago a video went viral on social media of a police officer from the mobile unit in combat uniform pleading for mercy from a motorist after asking for a bribe and realising that the transaction was all captured on camera.
The incident happened at Kagem security checkpoint on the Copperbelt.
Last month Police Inspector General Joshua Kanganja is on record to have issued a directive for a police officer named Brian Nkoma to be charged and dismissed after a video went viral where the officer was soliciting for a bribe and assaulting a motorist.
The video showed the police officer in question verbally assaulting a motorist before pulling out the vehicle insurance and road tax disks.
August presented life’s most humiliating moment for four traffic police officers from Matero Police who were caught red-handed with proceeds of bribery by Lusaka Minister Bowman Lusambo.
The four police officers, who mounted a checkpoint on Mungwi Road failed to account for the money which was found on them by Mr Lusambo.
The four, who identified themselves as Charity Zuze, Mukela Chibesa, Moses Chiinga and Sergeant Laban Bwalya, are said to have obtained over K2,200 from motorists through the illegal checkpoint.
They were immediately suspended and further investigations were instituted.
Still in 2018, the professionalism of the police service in handling riots and other such commotions came under serious scrutiny.
The most controversial case was the death of a fourth year University of Zambia student, Vespers Shimuzhila, who died during riots at the institution.
Verspers is alleged to have died from the fire which is said to have started after the anti-riot police threw a teargas canister into her room.
During the same incident Verspers’ roommate Evelyn Chongo sustained a spinal injury after she jumped from the second-floor room to escape the fire.
While investigations are underway to determine what really happened, the police were lamped with all the blame by various stakeholders.
Unfortunately, political opportunists also jumped on the bandwagon.
What made the situation worse for the police service was that it was barely a week after another incident in which a police officer is said to have shot dead a car wash dealer, a youth of Kitwe’s Buchi township.
According to Copperbelt Police Chief Charity Katanga, the incident happened when a police officer who accompanied officers from Nkana Water and Sewerage Company shot one of the clients.
The Nkana Water and Sewerage Company officers had gone to the area to repair leaking pipes which were being used as a source of water by car wash dealers. This propelled resistance from the car wash dealers resulting in some fracas.
After the shooting incident, the irate residents went on rampage burning tyres on Kazembe Road and the Kitwe-Chingola dual carriageway. The protest led to the closure of the road, causing dozens of vehicles going to North-Western Province to be stranded on either side of the road.
The number of police officers caught pants down and disciplined for corrupt activities is no doubt an indication that men and women in uniform cannot do as they wish and tarnish the image of the Police.
It is also clear that citizens have become more assertive and ready to hold the men and women in uniform accountable.
It can no longer be business as usual when corrupt elements are abusing their offices to siphon hard-earned cash from unsuspecting members of the public.
The exposẽ and subsequent punishment of some corrupt elements in the Police should serve as a lesson to other officers to remain professional in the execution of their duties.
Though the picture looks gloomy for the Police on account of the highlighted events, there is a consolation that there is a positive side as well. In every place, there are good and bad eggs.
It is also true that the Police still has good men and women who are dedicated to serve the public with dignity and selflessness.
In May this year, social media was abuzz with commendations for a female police officer who braved torrential rains to control heavy traffic in the flooded central business district.
Charity Nanyangwe, who did not have a raincoat amid a heavy downpour, continued directing traffic at the junction of Ben Bella and Lumumba roads.
Inspector-General of Police Kakoma Kanganja promoted Ms Nanyangwe from the rank of constable to sergeant for her dedication and genuine commitment to duty.
As we open a new chapter of 2019, it is hoped that all men and women in uniform will resolve to serve the nation with the kind of commitment and passion exhibited by Ms Nanyangwe.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.
Analysis: EMELDA MUSONDA