Saturday, January 26, 2013

UPND ready for showdown with police

UPND ready for showdown with police
By Moses Kuwema and Kombe Chimpinde
Fri 25 Jan. 2013, 13:20 CAT

UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says the party is ready for a showdown with the police this Sunday for being denied permission to hold a rally. But the Ministry of Home Affairs has warned the UPND that they will have themselves to blame if they go ahead with a public rally slated for this Sunday in Kabwata.

In a statement, Ministry of Home Affairs public relations officer, Moses Suwali, said that if UPND went ahead with their planned rally with or without police approval, they would be breaking the law because they would conduct themselves in a manner likely to cause a breach of the peace.

But Mweetwa insisted that the UPND's planned rally would go ahead and
that the police should be ready for a New Year's present if they
decided to stop the rally.

"For the police, this Sunday if they want, they should come and try to
stop the rally the way they did in Kanyama. We are ready to give them
a New Year present," he said.

Asked what he meant exactly by New Year present, Mweetwa responded:
"we are going to give them a new present. We have the law on our side
and we expect them to come and protect us and not to export anarchy to
a peaceful rally."

Mweetwa said rallies for the UPND as a political party were a life
blood of their existence because they provided a market place for them
to merchandise their ideas.

And Mweetwa said the police should apologise to his party for stating
that the UPND was incapable of holding violent free events, failure to
which the party would commence legal action.

He said the police should also apologise for tarnishing the image of the party.

"If the police fail to do this, we intend to commence very serious
legal action against them. The basis for this contemplation is as
follows; we find the statement by the police highly insulting and
defamatory to the integrity, persona and character of the UPND
leadership, to an extent that this statement has not only tarnished
the good image of our party but they have brought the image of the
UPND into public ridicule and hatred because the people of this
country abhor violence, detest it, they are allergic to violence,"
Mweetwa said.

Mweetwa said it was extremely intrusive for the police to brand UPND a
violent party.

He said the position of the police on the UPND, had served to act as
confirmation to what he termed as the fears of people that under the
PF, Zambia was now a police state.

But Suwali stated: "the UPND after being informed not to go ahead, they will have themselves to blame for the consequences of their acts and they should not claim that they were not forewarned."

Suwali urged the UPND to go by what the police had advised
adding that the ministry was aware of Lusaka Province police
Commissioner, Joyce Kasosa's, gesture to dialogue with the UPND.

"We therefore encourage the UPND to respond positively and dialogue
with police and come up with an amicable solution. We therefore
implore UPND to dialogue with police unlike taking a confrontational
approach towards the issue as police are not willing to be at variance
with UPND but instead promote a spirit of dialogue as stakeholders,"
stated Suwali.

Lusaka police have denied the UPND a permit to hold its planned rally
in Kabwata, saying the opposition political party could be trusted to
hold a violence-free event.

Kasosa stated that police did not trust UPND to hold a violence-free rally due to what happened at Woodlands Police Station, where suspected UPND cadres, who escorted their president Hakainde Hichilema, caused commotion, and assaulted a police officer.

Meanwhile, Mike Mulongoti has described as unfair the continued refusal by the police to allow the opposition to hold political rallies.

Mulongoti, a former works and supply minister, said the refusal by police to approve of the latest notification by the UPND to hold a public rally in Kabwata was creating frustration and suspicions among political parties and the electorate.

"What is unfortunate is that those who can't hold rallies themselves, for whatever fears, are the ones who are stopping those capable of doing it. The conversation with the public must continue and more so for the government itself. People are hungry for conversation with their leadership but what is happening now is that they are keeping that pressure in a bottle," Mulongoti said.

He said that it was not fair for the government to sit idle while police had continued to deny the opposition space to hold political rallies, because the latter held rallies while in the opposition with ease.

"…It's blatant disregard of the freedoms of association and the law. When you monitor them, the police are saying the UPND has no capacity to hold the rally peacefully? They have not even allowed one rally so that they can see what happens; they are just stopping and stopping (the opposition), creating anger and frustration," Mulongoti said.

"It's nonsensical because the constitution provides for freedom of movement, assembly. How harmful can visiting a market or chief be? I think they are extending this intolerance to ridiculous levels. They had an opportunity to do that when they were in the opposition, I think they cannot stop others from doing it."

Mulongoti said this when he featured on UNZA radio yesterday.
He said the existence of political parties would be irrelevant if its leaders were not given chance to interact with the electorate.

"How many people are they going to stop? Suppose all parties decided to visit markets, do they think they can contain that? What is important is to promote cooperation with the opposition," said Mulongoti.

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