And the fixing we are talking about here should start from the top most to those at the tail end of the Zambia Police Service. It is only through this process that a semblance of professionalism will get back to the police service (which rarely identifies itself as such but a police force ready to unleash its strength on mostly defenceless citizens).
There are many times that our police has come under serious condemnation for its actions that citizens feel were beyond the scope of their work. The happenings in Sesheke during the parliamentary by-election are still too fresh to be forgotten by the people. The violence between the two big parties – PF and UPND – saw the police joining in “to stop the animosity”. But the force used to stop the fights between the two rival groups has been described as not proportionate to the disturbance that existed during voting day in Sesheke. In short, the police in that scenario “unnecessarily” used maximum force on the cadres. In fact, the police followed Patriotic Front cadres to their lodge where we understand they beat them up “ruthlessly”, leaving some hospitalized. For this, the police command and a constable in Sesheke have been retired in national interest. These are Sesheke Police Commanding Officer Shapa Wakunguma, deputy Commanding Officer Flemming Chilongo, Officer in Charge at Sesheke Police Station Boniface Lengwe and Constable Frederick Mukela a constable.
One question that begs answers from the police command is: by firing the four police officers, will the political violence we have been witnessing during elections end? Will the animosity between the PF and UPND cadres end by this decision? We doubt that is the case. We feel the police acted hastily when coming up with this decision.
First, guidelines should have been followed in meting out disciplinary action on the officers. If, indeed, how they conducted themselves in Sesheke fell below their mandate, then they deserve punishment. But how this punishment is meted out is what is currently under contention. Yes, no police officer should discharge their duties in a partisan manner, but again, no police officer should lose their job without being subjected to the due process as guided by the law. Article 173 (3) of the Republican Constitution clearly states that “a public officer shall not be removed from office, reduced in rank or otherwise punished without just cause and due process”.
Secondly, considering the speed at which this decision has been made, it is difficult to ascertain whether or not due process was followed. The President only retires someone in national interest based on recommendations received from their superiors. He does not decide from the blues! Examples have been given about how no police officer who was part of the squad that fired teargas in hostels at UNZA, leading to the death of a 4th year student, has been disciplined. Regardless of the situation or crimes committed by the police officers, the police command here should ensure the law is followed in retiring one in national interest.
Thirdly, the police command must work on as a matter of urgency is to totally end police brutality wherever and whenever there is a disturbance caused by the people, regardless of political parties involved. The police command must hold dear the human rights of all; whether victim or lawbreaker.
Lastly, the entire police service needs serious cleansing – depoliticizing the whole Zambia Police Service to ensure that officers conduct their duties without any partisan inclination. Their role is to serve the government of the day and the people of Zambia in line with the law. The most dangerous police officer any person can ever encounter is one who is politically inclined. Imagine the treatment PF cadres would get from a police officer who is sympathetic towards the opposition? Imagine the treatment opposition cadres would get from a police officer sympathetic towards the ruling PF?