31 arrested in Solwezi riots

Solwezi residents have expressed shock at the police use of live ammunition during the riot that broke-out in the district yesterday after a 13 year old girl was hit by a police vehicle in the area. The residents have since called on government to investigate the use of live ammunition by police officers who went to quell the riot. But North Western Province police Deputy Commissioner Paul Achume said that he was not aware of the use of live ammunition saying,” Not to my knowledge of the use of live ammunition. We used teargas to disperse the residents. And we have arrested 31 and more would be arrested in connection with the riot and are detained in Solwezi.” A witness at the riot scene said that it was sad that police officers in riot gear used live ammunitions to disperse the angry residents. He said Police fought running battles with residents while the police fired live bullets and teargas canisters. And former worker at Nitrogen Chemicals of Zambia (NCZ) yesterday protested at the Company’s premises in Kafue District to press for the payments of their terminal benefits. Residents in Solwezi District yesterday rioted and smashed windows of vehicles parked at the police station after a 13-year-old girl was hit by a police vehicle. The incident happened when a police vehicle which was in a convoy escort of a military official hit a 13 year old girl who was crossing the road. According North Western Province Deputy Police Commissioner Paul Achume who confirmed the development said that the residents of Kyawama compound in the district ran amok and smashed windows of the police station after a 13 year old girl was run over by a police vehicle and died on the spot. Mr. Achume said that angry mob also smashed windscreens to private motor vehicles that were packed at the police station and nearby shops.He said that the death of the girl, identified as Lister Kajhilambinga of highland residential area was the cause of the riot as the resident descended on the police. Mr Achume said the accident happened when the girl tried to cross the road to the other side when the vehicles which were in the convoy and at a high speed hit her. He said, “The police vehicle registration number ZP 2164B hit her as she ran across the road while the vehicle was approaching. The accident happened around 07.50 this morning (yesterday) sparking into protests by the resident who ended up rioting and destroying property worth millions of kwacha. However the situation has returned calm and the police who hit her has since been detained.” And retirees in Kafue who arrived at the company premises in the Tuesday morning before other workers could settle down in their offices brought operations at the company to halt forcing NCZ management to flee the premises for safety. Amon Chanda one of the retiree at the company confirmed with the Daily Nation in a telephone interview from Kafue that the only thing they wanted was to be paid their terminal benefits as they had waited for a long time.Mr. Chanda said that the former workers had suffered irreparably as if they did not contribute to the economic boom of the country. He said that the workers were now tired with government inertial on the payments saying that it was sad that Zambians were not respected but be treated like slaves in their own country. “It is sad that today we have to fight for our rights until they pay us this will spread all over. We are not turning back. Until they assure us of getting our money we have worked for then things will be ok here. We have tried to discuss with the management but they have taken our kindness too far,” he said.The protest forced government through the deputy minister in the Ministry of Agriculture Rodgers Mwewa who rushed to the district to plead with the retirees that government would start paying by the end of the week. “The protest will not benefit all of us here. I suggest that we allow the operations to normally continue as government respond to the concerns you have raised and I am sure that by the end of the week half of the money owned to you will be released in readiness for payments. It was no use for them to continue paralyzing the operations at the plant,” he said. And Solwezi Central Member of Parliament Lucky Mulusa who rushed to the scene from Lusaka said that the riot was in a bad taste and blamed the PF government for allowing vendors to continue trading on the streets.