The riots that rocked Ndola yesterday must be condemned for usurping the functions of the rule of law reposed in the police and other security institutions.
It is unfortunate that residents decided to take the law into their own hands to express their frustration and anger within entire community for the mistake that one person made.
The act of assaulting individuals, looting property and generally breaking the law are unconscionable and therefore deserve to be condemned. It is equally sad that police reaction time was slow. As a result damage was inflicted long before they could arrive to salvage the situation.
It is also clear from reports that the rioters were expressing anger that involved matters far beyond the untimely death of their colleague. To an extent there was also an expression of xenophobia directed at the Somali community.
Evidently mob psychology rather than reason and logic ruled the day, which is unfortunate because Zambians are known to be friendly, accommodating and sympathetic to foreigners who find themselves on hard time. This is true of the support rendered to victims of the liberation struggle in Zimbabwe, Namibia and South Africa. Therefore the anger shown against the Somalis is quite uncharacteristic.
We can understand that one unruly person abused our hospitality to kill in cold blood a man whose only offence was to demand for his wages.
It is however important for the authorities to note and cognizance of the dynamics that led to the confusion in Ndola.
Zambians who are normally calm were driven to breaking into shops and looting out of a feeling of frustration of the mal treatment their fellow citizens suffer at the hands of foreigners. They decided to take the law into their own hands because they were convinced that the perpetrator might be able to pay his way out of the crime committed so brazenly in broad daylight.
This can be explained by the growing feeling that the law is not responsive to public needs in that sections of the society are able to conduct themselves with impunity knowing that the law will be compromised and therefore not reach them.
There are many examples where people culpable of crime are free to roam the streets, practice their professions and generally conduct themselves with impunity because they are protected from the law.
Zambians may have patience but that patience as Somalians have found out have a limit and when the limit is reached there is no telling what will happen.
It is an imperative therefore that the rule of law is applied evenly and equitably across the board without fear, favour or preference. Anything to the contrary is a recipe for anarchy similar to that seen in Ndola where law abiding citizens who have witnessed the abuse of their relatives abused have taken the law into their hands to avenge deep seated grievances.
The last time Zambia witnessed these riots was in the UNIP era when there were shortages of mealie meal and other food stuffs.
The conditions may not be the same but the dynamics may not be very different.