19 January 2013

Zambia: Opposition Vow to Defy Ban On Supporters

Opposition political parties have vowed to defy government decision to ban supporters from accompanying their leaders when summoned to police stations for arrests.

Home affairs minister Edgar Lungu has announced a ban on political party cadres who accompany their leaders when summoned to appear before the police. This follows the confusion that erupted at Woodlands Police Station between UPND president Hakainde Hichilema's supports and the officers on Thursday.

But UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said Lungu's directive is not backed by any piece of legislation rendering it defective and non-binding on anyone.

Mweetwa said UPND supporters will not sit idle and let their party president be dragged all over by police officers.

"The constitution of the Republic of Zambia is the supreme law of the country. Within the constitution, everyone has the right of association and assembly. Everyone has the right to associate with people escorting them to go to police, to go to court, to go to church or to go shopping or even to go to a political rally. These are supporters who are bound to be emotionally attached to their leaders and they will not sit idle. For us as UPND, we are not going to accept this decree," Mweetwa said.

Meanwhile, ADD and FDD have said the ban of supports to accompany their leaders to police is unfair. They have suggested that police should just ensure adequate security to police cadres who offer solidarity to their leaders

ADD president Charles Milupi said government should not stop solidarity supporters but rather ensure the good governance tenets are observed.

FDD spokesperson Antonio Mwanza says escorts should not be stopped because they are a common practice across the world. Mwanza said its incumbent upon leaders to counsel supporters who offer them solidarity instead of banning them from supporting their leaders.

Announcing the ban, Lungu said the move will help to avoid unruly behavior and anarchy.

He said anyone summoned to the police should only be accompanied by their lawyer of his or her choice.

He said officer in-charge of a particular police station can use their discretion to allow a summoned person to be accompanied by their spouse or relatives. He said the Ministry of Home Affairs will not sit idle and see the culture of anarchy prevail in the country

He said the behavior of UPND cadres at Woodlands Police Station is regrettable and should not be tolerated. Lungu has since directed police to thoroughly investigate the matter and arrest the culprits.

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