Columnists Features

Police have teeth now, let them bite

FINALLY, the Zambia Police Service central command has realised that the security of the nation is at stake as a result of the escalation of political violence ahead of the August 11 general elections.
A few days ago Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja issued an order to commissioners of police in all the 10 provinces to use “reasonable force” to deal with political thugs.
President Lungu has given Mr Kanganja’s order more weight by announcing that he will be forced to instruct the police to use a bit of force to curb the violence.
The directive is long overdue. Peace loving Zambians have been watching with dismay the deteriorating security situation in the country.
It cannot be denied that the police have tried their best to strike a balance between maintaining law and order and upholding human rights. But some opposition parties and their supporters have taken advantage of this exhibition of tolerance.
Before the directive, it was becoming clear that the police were struggling to execute their mandate by the timid approach they had adopted towards politically motivated violence.
Right now some opposition parties are behaving as if they are a parallel government. They have no respect for those who are in power and the institutions they control because of the imaginary popularity they are enjoying on social media and in some publications.
Therefore, they think they are above the law and the police have just been watching them.
This has emboldened the political leaders and their cadres who feel that the law enforcement officers are too weak to stop them.
In the last one month the cadres have had a free rein, terrorising supporters of rival political parties and innocent members of the public wherever they have gone to campaign. No one seems to be safe anymore from these machete-wielding and stone-throwing thugs.
I warned in this very column not long ago that if the police were not going to change their approach the violence would escalate. And it has.
It was predictable. Many observers saw it coming because of the softness of the police and the reckless statements spewing from the mouths of some leaders, which are deliberately meant to excite their cadres and incite them to terrorise their perceived political enemies.
It is clear that the cadres and their leaders have misinterpreted the Zambia Police Service’s respect for human rights and the rule of law as a sign of weakness.
In their flawed judgement they believe that the police are toothless, which is not true. Repeated appeals for peaceful campaigns from President Lungu, the Church and some chiefs have been falling on deaf ears. It has been like pouring water on a duck’s back.
Fortunately, the police command has seen it fit to change the tactics. The order to use reasonable force should be taken seriously.
Police officers who will drag their feet in carrying out this important order are not fit to remain in the service. They should be shown the door so that they can pursue other careers.
I am sure our gallant officers have been following how their counterparts in Kenya and France have been dealing with political hooliganism in the last few weeks. The internet is awash with stories and pictures of the efficient manner in which police have been confronting those disrupting public peace.
There is enough legal backing for the police in Zambia to cite and use to tame the rampaging cadres who are steadily turning our beloved country into a vast battle field.
I would like to commend Mr Kanganja for issuing the order on behalf of his Commander-in-Chief, the President of the Republic of Zambia. Zambians feel more assured now that they will be safe.
As the elections draw nearer there will be more intimidation through violence especially by those who have realised that public mood is not in their favour.
What is good, though, is the fact that Zambians are peaceful people who hate violence, and are just waiting for August 11 to punish any political party or candidate promoting the vice.
Not voting for them is the best way of teaching the violent parties and individual candidates a lesson.
As we get closer to the election day the government should put all the defence and security forces on high alert. Some parties have openly announced that they will not accept the results of the elections if they lose.
Such threats should not be taken lightly.
The intelligence unit of the Zambia Police Service and the Zambia Security Intelligence Service should start compiling a list of individuals fanning and perpetrating violence and put their homes under 24-hour secret surveillance regardless of their status.
After inciting violence, assaulting other citizens and damaging public and private property these people go back to their homes as individuals and not in groups.
It will, therefore, be easy to smoke them out and bring them before the law.
As for those leaders who are finding pleasure in inciting their cadres to maim innocent citizens and smash up their property the police should not have any problem taming them.
Should they cause trouble after the elections put them under house arrest for three months guarded by heavily armed commandos from Mushili Barracks in Ndola.
During the same period let truckloads of paramilitary police from Sondela in Kafue mount a relentless manhunt for all those who will have been identified as promoters and perpetrators of political violence.
They should round them up and bundle them to Chimbokaila, Mukobeko and Kamfinsa State prisons at the President’s pleasure. Should any of them defy the law or threaten the safety of the officers the law enforcers should not hesitate to use reasonable force to subdue them.
Enough is enough. The police have been given a clear order to use reasonable force to restore order. The onus is on their shoulders to demonstrate to peace-loving and law-abiding citizens that they are equal to the calling.
Zambians are watching.

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