Monday, February 10, 2014

Policing intra-PF violence
By Editor
Thu 21 Nov. 2013, 14:00 CAT

THE complaints about the way the police has handled the violence that rocked the Patriotic Front deserve attention. It is easy for those in charge of the police to dismiss these complaints as unjustified. But the complaints do have some basis. It cannot be denied that the police were not impartial in the way they dealt with the maintenance of law and order when it comes to this issue.

In every society throughout history, those who administer the criminal justice system hold power with the potential for abuse and tyranny. In the name of the state, those who control the police have abused it to harass their political opponents. No democratic society can tolerate such abuses.

Throughout this conflict, it was very clear where the police stood. An objective audit of the conduct of the police will reveal a bias towards those who were opposed to or were fighting Wynter Kabimba.

The police was not neutral in its conduct in this matter. Those who were fighting Wynter had the impunity to do as they pleased. They could carry out processions in Cairo Road at any time they wished, disturbing business in the city's central district. No other political group can be said to have enjoyed such liberty. The sponsors of this group defended it as a democratic right. But the same people have never been heard defending the rights of any other group to do the same. There were no arrests of anyone for violence because the perpetrators of violence were sponsored by a group that had taken control of the police.

We only started to see arrests after the balance of political forces had altered in favour of Wynter and the cadres who supported him. None of the people arrested by the police for intra-PF violence can be said to be those against Wynter - it is all those in his support. But it is not a secret that the most violent faction of the PF is that opposed to Wynter. And this explains why Lusaka Province PF chairperson Geoffrey Chumbwe is urging the police to be professional in their conduct.

The police cannot deny that there have been complaints put to them about the criminal conduct of certain elements opposed to Wynter. But nothing has been done to them. The issue is if the police can conduct itself in such a discriminatory and biased manner towards factions of the same ruling party, what should the opposition expect from them?
It will be interesting to know who in the police was issuing orders on how to deal with this intra-PF conflict.

The police needs to cleanse itself of this iniquity because it has discredited it.

In saying this, we are not in any way trying to imply that the police should lack the necessary powers to enforce the law and punish offenders. On the contrary, the criminal justice system in a democratic society will be effective to the degree that its administration is judged by the population to be fair and protective of individual rights, as well as of the public interest.

Every state must have the power to maintain order and punish criminal acts, but the rules and procedures by which the state enforces its laws must be explicit, not secret, arbitrary or subject to political manipulation by those wielding more political power.

Of course, there are some who were purely opportunistic over this matter hoping to be rewarded by supporting the side they thought was winning. This type of behaviour is not new in our law enforcement agencies. Officers position themselves politically in the hope of being rewarded when the side they are supporting takes over power. With the force the anti-Wynter group came with, many thought it was just a matter of time before he was out. And accordingly, they chose the side they thought was winning. But they are now in disarray. This is the problem of police officers taking sides in matters where they should be neutral and simply enforce the law as it stands.

But it was not only the politicians whose behaviour was opportunistic. Some cadres and leaders in PF shifted to where they thought power lay. What they did not know is that real power in the Patriotic Front does not lie with those corrupt and tribalistic characters who were cheating them, bribing them with money and promising them all sorts of things to help them get rid of Wynter. They even forgot who had made Wynter what he is politically today. They forgot that Wynter was a servant, a disciple, an appointee of PF founder and party president Michael Sata.

What they did not understand is that if Michael reshuffled Wynter and sent him to Shang'ombo to go and work as a district commissioner or PF political commissar in that area, Wynter would not object. Wynter did not join PF to become secretary general; he joined as an ordinary member and Michael made him secretary general of the party. And accordingly, Michael, as the appointing authority, has every right to remove Wynter from that position without him feeling rancoured about it. Any true member of the Patriotic Front should be ready to be substituted by the vision carrier at any time.

We therefore urge the police to keep out of politics and hold themselves accountable to the commander-in-chief and to the Zambian people in all their diversities and complexities and to no other political force other than that. And moreover, the rule of law requires them to give equal protection to all citizens regardless of their political affiliations. Whether political ally of those who wield power or opponent, all are entitled to equal protection before the law. And under no circumstances should those who control the police impose additional inequalities; they should be required to deal evenly and equally with all citizens. No one should be above the law.

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