28 August 2012

Zambia: Cops Storm UPND Offices

POLICE yesterday stormed the United Party for National Development (UPND) secretariat in Lusaka in an attempt to conduct a search for what is believed to be seditious material.

The search was thwarted after lawyers representing the opposition political party, who rushed to the premises situated in Rhodespark, argued that the search warrants were defective.

The police had prior to this entered the yard but could not enter the building as they were kept at bay for over an hour by UPND members who said they could only allow them when the lawyers arrived.

The police were forced to vacate the premises after one of the lawyers, Sakwiba Sikota pointed out that the warrants were defective.

Mr Sikota, flanked by party vice-president Richard Kapita and Douglas Siakalima, who is special adviser to party president Hakainde Hichilema, argued that one of the warrants should have been specific as to what the police were after.

He also argued that the contents of the warrants showing that the party had lost some property were not correct as UPND had never complained of anything stolen from them.

When contacted for a comment, police acting spokesperson, Rae Hamoonga said he could not issue a statement as he had not yet been furnished with details on the matter.

"I haven't received a report on what transpired at the UPND offices, I am sure I'll be able to do that tomorrow and give all details," Mr Hamoonga said.

Earlier, police had barred journalists from gaining entry into the premises but later rescinded the decision.

Armed police officers kept guard as UPND cadres, mainly youths, took a confrontational stance with the State security over their presence.

After a long wait, Mr Sikota addressed the Press, stating that the police had been challenged over the contents of the search warrants and that it was concluded that they were erroneously drafted.

"We apologise to the journalists for being blocked, this shows that the police know that what they are doing is illegal. The search will not go ahead because we have discovered that they have defective search warrants.

"This is because they were done hurriedly as they were acting under undue pressure. They say they are looking for property which was stolen and taken elsewhere. So why are they here and on the other end, they are saying they are looking for seditious material," Mr Sikota said.

Mr Kapita alleged that the police were acting under political pressure.

He appealed to the police to be impartial and protect citizens equally and not harass the opposition.

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