Following a deadly shooting of protesters by officers of the Zambia National Service (ZNS) in the Kampasa area near Lusaka’s main airport, the Coalition for the Defence of Democratic Rights (CDDR) is calling for a full investigation and an immediate cessation of the use of live rounds for the purposes of crowd control by Zambia’s security services.
“We are deeply concerned by this tragic incident of soldiers firing live rounds at unarmed protesters during a routine crowd control exercise, as it raises fears over how security operations will be handled during future political rallies and elections,” said Robert Amsterdam, international counsel to the CDDR. “All Zambians have a constitutional right to freedom of speech and assembly, and such a willful disregard for human lives by the PF government cannot be allowed to continue.”
Although the details are still unclear, the squatting protesters in Kampasa had clashed with the authorities on previous occasions, claiming that they had been unlawfully dispossessed of their homes in a land transaction related to the Meanwood Ndeke Housing Development by a senior member of government, Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo, among other investors close to State House. The shooting occurred when ZNS soldiers arrived to demolish houses built on the disputed land.
The shooting in Kampasa resulted in the unnecessary deaths of two unarmed protesters, Clement Muloongo and Pumulo Lungwangwa, and several injuries. According to a report published in the Zambia Daily Mail, one protester had been beaten with short batons before being shot in the head at close range. The other was shot as he tried to rescue his father.
“According to eyewitnesses, one of the men raised his hands and begged the officers armed with AK 47 rifles to spare his life but they ignored him and opened fire on him,” reads the Daily Mail coverage of the incident. “The second victim was shot when he tried to rescue his father, who was in the house which was being demolished, while the survivor was shot in the buttocks as he hung around after being evicted from his house.”
The killings of the two protesters in Kampasa are preceded by a number of other violent episodes under the ruling Patriotic Front party.
On June 12, Zambian security officials similarly fired live rounds into a crowd of people attempting to purchase football tickets for a World Cup qualifier, resulting in one young woman losing a kidney from a bullet that tore through her midsection. In Kitwe, rioting football fans were quelled by soldiers firing live rounds into the air.
Other violent attacks from the ruling party have targeted opposition figures. Just days earlier, cadres from the Patriotic Front party attacked Father Frank Bwalya, a Catholic priest who recently turned against the ruling party, and interrupted his interview with Flava FM. And on May 31, an organized militia attacked and violently beat civil society activists who had met in a church to discuss the government’s sudden removal of fuel and maize subsidies, among other violent incidences involving the ruling party. Other opposition leaders such as Hakainde Hichilema and Nevers Mumba have also both been subjected to violent attacks over the past year.
“There is, in Zambia today, an environment of impunity, where judges can be fired for ruling against friends of the PF regime, where the police refuse to arrest perpetrators of violence so long as it is in the interest of the state, and where moral bankruptcy and corruption reign supreme,” said Amsterdam. “Make no mistake, these kinds of ‘accidental’ shootings are a test of resolve, a test to see what they can get away with. The CDDR intends to work closely with other members of civil society who reject this state-sponsored violence to prepare a report before relevant bodies detailing these events.”