Saturday, July 04, 2009

Stop Rupiah’s criminal abuses

Stop Rupiah’s criminal abuses
Written by Editor

It is clear that there is systematic corruption within our justice system; it is increasingly coming under the direction of Rupiah Banda and his friends. And this is resulting in an improper delivery of judicial services and legal protection for citizens. Why should we be concerned that corruption pervades our justice system?

This is because in a democracy based on the rule of law, all citizens expect equal access to the courts and equal treatment by the investigative bodies, prosecutorial authorities, and the courts, regardless of their relations with those in power. The fulcrum of the judicial system must be equality for all the citizens that it serves.

This virtue should be granted regardless of one's political affiliation or lack of it. The absence of this promotes a system that can be distorted and manipulated to the advantage of those in power and against the loss of their opponents. This is against the very essence of justice.

An affective and respected judicial system is the most effective deterrent to those who wish to break laws or abuse their legally attained powers. There should be no slip-up or double standards in the application of the law or the pressing of charges. And the police is generally the body that should protect the community from those who break the law; in other words they should be the law enforcement body and the guardians of the civil society.

Consequently those in government must be the main sponsors in ensuring that lawbreaking is dealt with in a systematic and non-prejudiced manner. The judicial system should aim to serve the core aspect of justice and justice alone. It should not be abused by Rupiah to settle political scores with us, with his opponents.
The increasing abuse of the police and other law enforcement agencies in this country by Rupiah is disturbing and worrying and should be stopped.

We say this because the police have a cardinal role to enforce the law, keep peace and protect life and property. And in carrying out these duties, the police have a lot of discretion. And this discretion can be open to gross abuse. It is important to note that the separation of the police from the politicians running government is an important tenet of democracy.

At no time should the police be a political tool of those in power.

A dangerous trend is emerging where our police, the Zambia Police Service, is short of being turned into an MMD militia which can be unleashed on innocent citizens as and when Rupiah and his friends deem fit. It appears that the police are just there to serve the interests of Rupiah and his friends instead of protecting all citizens in the country.

Our reporters have for some time now continued to suffer harassment at the hands of MMD cadres and thugs in the full view of the police. Last year, shortly before the October 30 elections, our reporter Mutuna Chanda was blocked from interviewing commerce minister Felix Mutati, who had gone to the Copperbelt to campaign for Rupiah. A few days later, Mutuna was ejected from another meeting that was being addressed by MMD officials in Kitwe on grounds that The Post was publishing lies about Rupiah, the then ruling party’s candidate. Mwila Chansa, another Post reporter, was chased from Buchi Hall in Kitwe where Thandiwe Banda was addressing women during the same period. These MMD women actually threatened to sort out Mwila if she did not leave their meeting because they did not need The Post's presence. Not so long ago, Thomas Nsama, our photojournalist, was beaten by MMD cadres in full view of the police at Chipata airport where he had gone to cover the arrival of South African President Jacob Zuma, who was expected to grace the Nc’wala ceremony. Thomas was asked to leave the airport by the police for his own safety because the police said they were busy and would not manage to give him protection. The matter was reported to the police and pictures of the thugs who harassed Thomas were forwarded to the authorities for their attention and nothing has happened to date. Most recently, our photographer Eddie Mwanaleza and reporter George Chellah were chased from Lusaka's City Airport by MMD cadres where they had gone to cover Rupiah's arrival from Zimbabwe, and they were advised by police officers to leave for their own safety. These are just some of the examples of cases where our reporters have had to suffer at the hands of Rupiah's thugs in the presence of police officers whose duty is to protect all citizens in the country.

Innocent citizens and cadres from other political parties have also been subjected to harassment, in some cases from MMD cadres, without any action from the police.

What is even more sickening is the response and justification from Rupiah and his officials like chief government spokesperson Lieutenant General Ronnie Shikapwasha who recently said The Post is reaping what it sowed. Rupiah himself said The Post should know that the people they attack have supporters who are capable of reacting if they feel their leader is unfairly treated. This is unacceptable, outrageous and it should not be allowed to continue.

The police, as a professional public institution financed by all taxpayers, cannot continue to act on instructions from Rupiah whenever he feels like taking on his opponents, perceived or real. The police should not be used in a partisan political way to harass and humiliate Rupiah's political opponents because this tends to undermine people's confidence in a public institution they fund. We believe that in any democratic state, policing should comply with the law, be accountable and respect human rights. It will be very difficult if our people reach a level where they feel they do not need the protection of the police and start to take the law into their own hands. We need to, as much as possible, foster the independence and integrity of our police service as well as other law enforcement agencies. We need to ensure that we give them room to do their own investigations and pursue matters where they genuinely feel there is a case. The current trend of Rupiah issuing instructions to our law enforcement agencies to pursue his political enemies, people he hates or act on certain matters is causing a lot of embarrassment and is placing our law enforcement officers in an awkward position as they are having to go to great lengths to please Rupiah and his friends even when they know that there is nothing to investigate. The police and other law enforcement agencies are being subjected to holding political press briefings just to issue empty statements to show that they are making progress when there is nothing to investigate. These unproductive exercises can be avoided; there are better things that our law enforcement officers can exert their energies on. The most unfortunate thing is that they are not morally or otherwise courageous enough to tell Rupiah and his friends that they have found nothing on whatever it is that they have been asked to pursue. There is need to leave these institutions to operate free of political manipulation because they are there to serve all Zambians. Besides, these are officers who are paid taxpayers’ money to maintain law and order in the country and protect all Zambians and not just Rupiah and his friends.

Rupiah's increasing abuse of our judicial process must be stopped because it is dangerous and criminal.

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