BENEDICT TEMBO, Lusaka
IT IS common nowadays to see some people wearing attire similar to military fatigue. Some young people wear such regalia as part of fashion, but in recent years, there has been concern about the increasing trend of civilians donning military fatigue. Of late, the trend has been prevalent in political circles where youths wear it to look combative against their political opponents. Military regalia symbolises national security and those who wear them represent the power and authority of the State. For example, military officers are entitled to bear arms that enable them to undertake their security duties. Now, imagine someone pretending to be such an officer wearing their uniform and even bearing arms, that’s putting the security of the state in danger. It takes special training and discipline to train a soldier and give him or her uniform to wear. How do you give a non-trained individual such a powerful symbol? That is why Inspector-General of Police Kakoma Kanganja deserves commendation for finally directing his men and women to arrest all civilians wearing military regalia. In the directive made in Kitwe on Wednesday, Mr Kanganja told police not to be selective and arrest all civilians in military regalia irrespective of their political affiliation. Mr Kanganja’s directive comes in the wake of several pictures and footage of cadres wearing camouflaged attire, some depicting the uniform worn by the United States of America army. There was also a veiled threat by the United States of America Embassy in Lusaka to complain to Government on the alleged use of the American military uniform and the flag by some cadres. Therefore, the latest pronouncement by the Inspector-General of Police is very important as it will help to end the perception of hooliganism and lawlessness, which has characterised the political arena. The directive will also show that the ruling party, the Patriotic Front, is not undermining the work of the police. In terms of general crime, many heinous crimes have been committed by people wearing police or military fatigue and hopefully this can be reduced. In the political arena, it may help reduce political violence and intimidation. If not caged, camouflaged cadres may mutate into militias and ultimately pose a threat to the political and economic stability of the country has enjoyed over the past five decades.
The current political violence by political parties points to the cadres in uniform, who have chosen to equate themselves to law enforcement agencies such as the Zambia Police Service and the military. Little wonder they call themselves commanders – depicting the authority they purportedly carry.
There is certainly no harm in political parties having security wings which provide protection to their VIP officials such as the president, vice-president and the secretary general. But to masquerade as military personnel is a serious breach of the country’s security protocols and a danger to the peace of the country. People serving in military earned their uniforms and ranks after undergoing rigorous military training. That is why civilians, irrespective of their standing in society, should not masquerade as military personnel. Anyone doing so should be punished and Mr Kanganja’s pronouncement is long overdue. It did not need an outcry from the general public. It is a pity cadres get illusions that they are real commanders with troops to command. One wonders how some cadres managed to transition from vigilantes to commanders. The ideal branding should have been from vigilantes to volunteers to give political parties a human face not the militia-like images being portrayed currently. At least from the Inspector-General of Police’s directive, anyone found behaving like they are commanders will be taken to guardroom where they will be dealt with properly, counselled properly so that they understand the significance of that uniform and the meaning of commander. Over and above, the directive to arrest civilians with taste for military regalia, perhaps, it may help to bring to an end to violence and other crimes perpetrated by criminals masquerading as uniformed security officers. But police should go further and disarm cadres who are now in possession of guns, tasers and other dangerous weapons.
For the police to succeed in carrying out their work of bringing sanity to the political arena, political parties must help the police by banning wearing of prohibited uniforms by their members. Long overdue as it maybe, the Police command has taken a gigantic step as the nation awaits its implementation. There is need for decency on the political landscape and demystify the perception that politics is a dirty game. Politics is after all a decent career, which should be able to attract all manner of professionals to contribute to the governance of the country.
The author is a Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.