Democracy and Freedoms Pick Spanner in the Wheel in Zambia as Police Molest, Arrest Opposition NDC Leader’s Family
Outrage is still growing in Zambia following an incident that provoked a near upheaval at the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday, October 20. It all started when police brutally arrested the wife and daughter of the incarcerated Leader of the Opposition National Democratic Congress (NDC), Mr. Chishimba Kambwili.
The two were at the Court to witness the NDC leader’s bail application before the Principal Resident Magistrate, David Simusamba Kambwili, who was sentenced to one-year imprisonment on each of two counts of forgery and uttering a false document. He had applied for bail, pending the outcome of his appeal.
According to an eyewitness who preferred to remain anonymous, the confusion started when the daughter to Mr. Kamwbili, Chanda in the company of her mother Carol and Brother Mwamba allegedly slapped a police officer for denying her entry into the court.
Police Brutality in Zambia is reportedly on the rise as the 2021 general elections draw near (C) Zambia Reports
“Chanda called the mother and the brother who were already inside the Court because the police had already closed the gates, but she did not understand why as a relative to Kambwili, she could not be allowed entrance…” the witness said.
The witness told Timescape Magazine that things happened too fast and before long Chanda and Mrs. Kambwili were being roughed-up by police and loaded in a van which drove them away from the Court premises. In addition, in a video that has gone viral on social media, police are seen manhandling Mrs. Kambwili and her daughter to the point of almost undressing them.
But when contacted to comment on the matter, Zambia Police Spokesperson, Esther Mwaata Katongo told Timescape Magazine that she did not have the full details.
“I do not have the full details, but some people have been picked at the Magistrate’s Court for misconducting themselves as officers were performing their duties. A detailed report will be given once availed,” she said.
But one of the lawyers representing Mrs. Kambwili and the daughter, Christopher Mundia of CL Mundia and Company told Timescape Magazine in an interview that the duo had been detained and charged with conduct likely to breach peace and assault, respectively.
“Mrs. Kambwili has agreed to pay a fine of 54 Kwacha for the charge of, ‘conduct likely to breach the peace...’ even though she did not commit that offence. She has agreed so that she is released tomorrow so that she sees the husband,” Mr. Mundia said, adding that the daughter who had been charged with assault has refused to commit.
“I don’t know why she has been charged with assault if there is anybody who has been assaulted, it is them, they have bruises and they have refused them to see a doctor. The mother will be released tomorrow but they have refused to give bond to the daughter until she goes to Court, they have 48 hours in which they can hold her,” the lawyer explained.
When asked why the two were manhandled, Mr. Mundia said they were denied entry into the Courtroom and they asked why as family members they could not be allowed in. One of the officers grabbed Chanda and a confrontation ensued but the situation was soon under control, he pointed out.
Mr. Mundia further outlined that “At some point, they were let go but some other police officers followed them and that is when it got out of hand”.
The mere fact of the arrest met with outrage and condemnation from several quarters all over Zambia. The Nongovernmental Gender Organizations’ Coordinating Council (NGOCC) lashed out in the strongest terms, at the unprofessional and brutal behaviour by the Zambian Police.
In a statement availed to Timescape Magazine, NGOCC’s Executive Director Engwase Mwale took aim at what she considered a despicable behaviour. She wondered aloud that if that was the kind of police action that the country’s democracy shall henceforth be exposed to, then NGOCC had cause to worry about how the Zambia Police was preparing to handle the 2021 general elections.
“The Police Service has a lot of work to do to enhance the professional conduct of our women and men in uniform. The examples shown so far in many aspects leave majority citizens concerned. The Republican Constitution guarantees citizen’s right to dignity and against all forms of inhuman and torturous treatment,” she said.
She could not fathom what she saw on social media, a thing which pusher her thoughts further when she said “To undress a woman in the manner the police did to Mrs. Kambwili is not only an assault on her dignity but a collective assault on all Zambian women. Regardless of the crime, one is accused of committing, they are presumed to be innocent until proven guilty by a competent court. Therefore, the brutality and heavy-handedness by the overzealous police officers against the defenceless and unarmed women is totally unacceptable”.
Ms. Mwale warned that to torture and dehumanize Mrs. Kambwili and the daughter in that manner was criminal, adding that clearly, from the video that has gone viral, the behaviour of the police was devoid of any civility and professionalism expected of the Police Service.
“We, therefore, demand an apology from the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Kakoma Kanganja, and the immediate prosecution of the officers that behaved in a barbaric manner as captured in the videos which are circulating on online platforms. The conduct of the officers is far short of the set principles of public service and specifically the Police Code of Conduct,” she expressed.
In the same vein, officials of the Human Rights Commission said they were infuriated at the way police handled the matter. Commission Spokesperson, Mweelwa Muleya said acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment of individuals or suspects were prohibited under Article 15 of the Constitution of Zambia, Chapter 1 of the Laws of Zambia and under International Human Rights Law.
“Further, the Commission considers the Police action against Mrs. Kambwili to have been excessive and disproportionate to her alleged action. The police action was not only unlawful and a violation of human rights but unnecessary, unreasonable, and unjustifiable in a democratic state such as Zambia in which human rights are supposed to be respected and protected,” Mr. Muleya said.
He regretted that acts of police brutality against individuals have continued unabated and were somewhat increasingly becoming the new normal of police operations.
Said he “Such impunity has resulted in numerous cases of gross violation of human rights, including the right to life through extra-judicial killings of citizens at the hands of police officers. The Commission calls upon the government, which has the trio primary obligation of respecting, protecting, and fulfilling human rights, to demonstrate leadership towards ending acts of police brutality”.
But Police Spokesperson, Mr. Katongo told Timescape Magazine in an interview that at times the Human Rights Commission should wait and get facts right before they issue statements about the police. She expressed frustration that the Commission should have engaged the Police as an institution to get a clear understanding of what transpired, noting that reacting to what people are expressing on social media was an act that lacks objectivity.
“Just seeing what is on social media and rushing to issue statements condemning police officers every time there is an issue is the wrong way of doing things. We as Zambia Police, we acknowledge the oversight role which the Commission does and we respect that but will not take lightly statements which are done in a haste with a view of playing smart as Human Rights Defenders and smearing mad on our institution,” she fumed.
Meanwhile, Principal Resident Magistrate, Mr. Simusamba adjourned his ruling that would determine whether his Court is competent to examine the NDC Leader’s bail application to Thursday, October 22.