19 January 2013

Zambia: Stop Anarchy, Cage Political Hooligans

THE altercation and violence that erupted between police and cadres from the United Party for National Development (UPND) at Zambia Police headquarters and Woodlands Police Station in Lusaka was a sad reflection of the lawlessness that has left an indelible blemish on the type of politics practised in our country.

Politicians should not lower their self esteem and standing by surrounding themselves with hooligans and all sorts of uncouth characters who are hired to incite violence in an attempt to pervert the course of justice.

Zambia is a democracy and fully subscribes to the rule of law.

Anyone deemed to have breached the law cannot escape the consequences of such conduct.

Suspects are interviewed by police to ascertain the veracity of the allegations against them, and upon satisfying themselves that an offence has been committed, police will then proceed to effect an arrest.

The tendency that has now become the norm where political leaders mobilise cadres to render support to them during interviews with police amounts to an attempt to intimidate the law enforcement agencies in order to pervert the course of justice.

Firstly, it must be understood that no amount of force unleashed on the police can prevent them from arresting suspects - and we mean all suspects - their station in society notwithstanding. The reason is simple: Nobody is above the law.

Cadres from all political parties who are coerced into acting as human shields in such instances should understand the full import of the law in the event that they are arrested for instigating violence and assaulting police officers.

Supporting one's chosen political cause is totally different from inciting violence and abusing cadres in the manner the country has witnessed so far.

Police should not be unfairly dragged into politics by accusing them of harassing various political players because they have a duty to maintain law and order by ensuring that civility is upheld in the conduct of politics.

Insults and violence belong to stone-age politics and have no room in a democratic political dispensation such as the one that obtains in Zambia.

We, therefore, welcome the decision by the Home Affairs Minister to ban political party cadres from accompanying their leaders when they are summoned by police over perceived transgressions, whether related or unrelated to their respective political activities.

This measure will go a long way in preventing unscrupulous persons from abusing their followers who often act as hired political goons targeting law enforcement officers and anyone they perceive to be harassing their leaders.

Offences are clearly defined in statutes, and in all criminal matters the onus is on the prosecution to prove their cases beyond reasonable doubt.

In all cases where evidence is wanting and the prosecution fails to adduce solid evidence to secure a conviction, an accused person is set free by courts of law.

The Zambian Judiciary has proved to all and sundry that it acts independently, and its decisions are informed by the evidence the police prosecutors and their witnesses adduce in court.

Suffice it to state that this independence has led to several acquittals of political leaders who were unfairly targeted.

We would like to appeal to all political players to repudiate violence and all uncouth political methods because there is no short-cut to State House.

They have to lobby for backing for their respective political manifestoes in a civilized manner and convince the electorate to vote for them.

That is what democracy entails.

Short-cuts are fraught with dangers that will imperil their political ambitions, for they risk committing crime that may consign them to prison and ruin their political careers.

Police, on their part, should remain uncompromising and deal with all the deviants without fear or favour in order to maintain law and order and avoid anarchy.

Police cannot afford to drop their guard at this critical hour as lawlessness could breed veritable confusion in the country.

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