LATE Vijay Thakur was famous for being a businessman and an astute reserve police officer.
Mr Thakur, who was based in Luanshya, religiously served the Zambia Police Service as a reservist at the level of assistant commissioner from 1995 up to 2013.
Mr Thakur, who was of Asian origin, rose to the rank of reserve commandant for the Copperbelt.
He was also a vital cog in the presidential security detail from President Frederick Chiluba, President Levy Mwanawasa and President Michael Sata.
Apart from Mr Thakur, there have been other foreign nationals who have in the past served as reservists diligently.
Like Inspector-General of Police Kakoma Kanganja noted during the commissioning of the eight Chinese nationals as reservists, the police cannot effectively fight crime on its own.
As such it requires the support of all well-meaning persons.
Mr Kanganja said the reserve wing is a very important component of the Zambia Police Service to complement the regular police in enforcement of law and crime prevention.
“The significance of the reserve wing cannot over-emphasised due to the fact that there is disparity in the police population ratio. The international standard is that a police officer should police 250 people. However, in our case one police officer has to police 750 people,” Mr Kanganja said.
The enlistment of the Chinese as reserves is part of enhancement of cooperation between the Zambia – Chinese Association which in October 2015 signed a memorandum of understanding to build cooperation with the Zambia Police Service.
However, the police command cancelled the appointment of the Chinese as reservists following social media and community media outcry.
Reservists have for a long time been part of the police service and have been instrumental in the enforcement of law and order.
Being a reservist was not only a prestigious part-time occupation in the past but was also a money spinner.
However, as Government operations and responsibilities grew, it became difficult to pay the reservists on time.
This compelled the police service to start looking for individuals who are financially stable – those who will not be enlisted with a view to benefitting financially.
Individuals like Mr Thakur provided their own logistics such as vehicles and fuel, besides helping to renovate police cells.
I remember that when two colleagues served as police as reservists about three years ago, their monthly entitlement was K28 but they never bothered to collect it.
Maybe, this has been revised upwards now.
Therefore, when the eight Chinese came on board as reservists, they too came in with their own logistics.
Contrary to popular view in the compounds, the Chinese did not take any job and were not in it for monetary gain.
Zhanga Jian, president of the Zambia Chinese Association stated categorically that they were going to be under the leadership and supervision of the Zambia Police.
“We will obey the laws and promote the cooperation between police and citizens with civilized law enforcement so as to create a peaceful and safe business environment,” Mr Zhang said.
However, the issue of the Chinese becoming reservists was heavily politicised by some citizens.
Beyond becoming reservists, there is just resentment against the Chinese which is slowly building up among some people and spreading it to other citizens.
The truth is that the Chinese, despite the massive investments (foreign direct investments) and infrastructure developments they are fostering are just not likeable especially by Zambians.
The perception some Zambians have of them is that of manipulators and not straight forward people.
This has been worsened by some Chinese nationals’ involvement in the illegal trade of the mukula tree and the take-over of the Black Mountain, the life-blood of youths on the Copperbelt known as Jerabos.
Therefore, Mr Kanganja’s annulment of the Chinese enlistment as reservists has further stigmatised them.
As things stand now, the Chinese are vulnerable because of the emotions being whipped against them.
There is need to change the perception Zambians have about the Chinese and embrace them just like the British, Americans and other races.
The Chinese mean well and are here to help change the country’s narrative for the better.
But they (Chinese) too should take an introspection and re-brand for a win-win engagement with Zambians.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail editorials editor.