Editor's Comment

Duty calls

TO beef up security during next week’s elections, Zambia Police Service Inspector General Kakoma Kanganja yesterday released 1,230 police recruits from Kamfinsa School of Public Order and Maintenance (SPOM) to join other officers in policing the polls.
This is a necessary move given that political tension is rising in some parts of the country. The police must be in place to stop any signs of trouble.
The Police is overstretched, but with ideal strategies and support from peace-loving citizens, the task can be carried out effectively.
The international standard policing ratio is one police officer to 250 people. Zambia’s ratio is at one police officer to 1,000 people. With elections heightening the challenge of policing, the police officers’ job is made even tougher, but not impossible.
It is good that more police officers have been trained and sent into the field to help police the elections. They are needed to stop any mischief, especially violence that has again reared its ugly head ahead of the crucial elections.
They will certainly make a whole lot of a difference even if their numbers are still far short of the ideal ratio.
What is comforting is that the police have been beefed up by the military to ensure that anyone who may be contemplating breaking the law will think twice about doing so.
The directive by President Edgar Lungu for the soldiers to step in follows the heinous murder of two Patriotic Front (PF) members last Friday. These killings were the straw that broke the camel’s back as they came in the wake of violent incidents in other parts of the country.
Among them was a physical attack on PF cadres, a journalist and a police station in Ikeleng’i.
Advice against such attacks, including the audacity to destroy government property, was falling on deaf ears. Reinforcement was inevitable.
There have been some voices raised against this decision as well as the police stating that they would use force to quell violence.
It is only those that break the law that would worry about this turn of events. Soldiers on the streets should not worry those that are law-abiding.
It may be recalled that there was a time when Zambia’s fight against cholera was being impeded by lawbreakers. The military were ordered to assist and in no time sanity was restored. Such is the sanity that must prevail again ahead of August 12.
The police, who are the front-liners of law enforcement, have a tough job but they must do it for the good of Zambia’s democracy.
Those deployed to police elections need to be on top of their responsibilities to ensure that they inspire confidence in the public.
Members of the public are relying on them to ensure that the election period is safe for people to freely cast their votes.
If voters sense insecurity, this could lead to apathy, which defeats the whole purpose of a democratic election.
As advised by the IG, the newly-trained police officers, together with experienced ones, must execute their duties with professionalism, transparency and accountability.
This is important for them to calm any volatile situation and win the confidence of all political players.
While the responsibility to maintain law and order lies on the shoulders of the security wings, the citizens and politicians in particular have a role to play, too.
Politicians and their supporters need to exercise maturity and restraint even when provoked.
Politicians should seek more civilised ways of resolving any stand-off instead of getting physical.
Maintaining peace requires concerted efforts from all stakeholders and, more importantly, from politicians.
For those who with impunity choose to abandon reasoning and engage in violent acts, the security wings should be on standby to deal with them.
Needless to say, as long as there is a threat to peace, duty calls for our men and women in uniform.

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