Danger of Politicizing the Police

It is not President Michael Sata that the people of Zambia should be afraid of.

They should fear those around the President who are now taking advantage of the current circumstances to create a climate of fear, despondency and anger.

These people may have a very  different agenda from President Sata and unless they are stopped and stopped early they may  succeed in plunging the country into crisis.

It is indeed the duty of senior politicians including Finance Minister Mr. Alexander Chikwanda who have influence within the Patriotic Front (PF) to ensure that rogue elements in and outside the political party system are quickly reigned in before the situation gets out of hand.

There is a real danger that over enthusiastic functionaries bent on enforcing authoritarianism will derail our finely balanced multi party system to create tension, which may culminate in a hostile environment from which we may never recover.

That is why the dawn raid on the home of former Defence minister GBM is a typical example of a system going wrong, as it clearly indicates a heavy handedness that is devoid of legal legitimacy.

No doubt the raid was conducted on superior instructions. This was in in spite of the fact that the Police had a letter from GBM’s lawyers clearly stating the date and time when the lawyers would deliver him for interrogation or for the purposes of getting a statement.

Similarly Police on the Copperbelt are reported to have trailed MMD President Nevers Mumba who was in Masaiti to visit party members. From all accounts they were responding to his political visit with the intention of disrupting it.

Regrettably such police show of force has the negative impact of reinforcing a growing perception that the Police have become a political conveyor belt to deliver political opponents and suspected dissidents into the criminal justice system.

This is not the role of the Police.

Liberal democracy as a philosophy espouses the qualities of equality in diversity. More importantly it a philosophy based on free and fair elections, civil rights, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, right to property and protect of the law for every individual

Our constitution protects these rights and no institution has the right to trample, truncate or disregard them.

It is therefore totally unacceptable for a party functionary such as Copperbelt PF Chairman Sturdy Mwale to decree that the Zambia Police should inform his leadership about any political activity by the opposition.

In the first place the Police have no role to play in political party activities and even if they  were informed of opposition party activities they have no right to pass such information to another party. It is these overreaching tendencies that are likely to create tension, confusion and ultimately violence unless they are contained.

What Mwale is suggesting is called totalitarianism, this being a situation where the state regulates every aspect of the public and private behaviors of the people.

Mr. Mwale must read the law, in particular Article 11 which recognizes fundamental rights and freedoms including freedom of conscience, expression, assembly movement and association.

This article must be read in tandem with article 21 which states very clearly that “Except with his own consent a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and particular to form or belong to any political party, trade union or other association for the protection of his interests.”

This is the law and not what Mr. Sturdy Mwale and the police are doing.