Libongani grilled

Inspector General of Police Stella Libongani yesterday came under fire for the unprofessional conduct by police officers when handling complaints from the opposition political parties, especially during by-election campaigns.

This was at a meeting called by the Electoral Commission of Zambia to discuss the violence in Mangango constituency by-election.

Those who attended the meeting included 31 secretary generals of registered political parties, Ms Libongani, Commissioner of Police-operation Fanwell Siandenge and Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairperson Justice Irene Mambilima.

The political party representatives accused Police officers of mainly acting in favour of the Patriotic Front (PF) and ignoring complaints from the opposition.

ECZ public relation manager Cris Akufuna confirmed the meeting which was held in the morning.

MMD national secretary Muhabi Lungu told the Daily Nation that it was clear that police have been unfair in the manner they have handled complaints from the opposition political parties.

“Our main complaint was that when we go and take our complaints to the police, for example our colleagues in PF have camped at polling stations when they are not supposed to camp there, the police do not act.

“If it is the other way round, let’s say that PF goes and complain that MMD have camped at polling stations, immediately the police will remove us. Those are double standards we are talking about,” he said.

Mr Lungu said MMD president Nevers Mumba and his entourage were turned away by police in Vubwi when he went to address meetings there because of a pending by-election.

“Then the following day Milozo Sichone went to Vubwi and held a meeting in the guise of being a minister. The police did not do anything. So we were telling the IG that police have to be seen to be very professional,” he said.

He said all political leaders must be protected when they complain of unfairness because they were citizens of Zambia.

“But when you take a complaint to the police, they will lock you up, instead. We were not the only ones who complained, many complained even UPND. They even said they are tired of complaining to the police,” Mr Lungu said.

And UPND secretary general Winstone Chibwe said his party’s complaint was Police officers’ appetite of arresting the opposition party members whenever they had a grievous to be addressed by law enforcement officers.

When contacted for a comment on the complaints from Political parties, Ms Libongani referred all the queries to the public relations unit.

But acting police spokesperson Esther Katongo refuted allegations of unprofessionalism by men in uniforms.

Ms Katongo said the meeting held at ECZ will not change anything because the officers have been professional in their work and they would continue doing so.

She said the challenge police officers have experienced in the past was that opposition leaders have refused to take advice from law enforcement officers.

“We have been treating matters of opposition party leaders fairly…there is nothing that is going to change even after that meeting because we have always taken a professional stance,” Mr Katongo said.

She said the statement which was issued during the meeting which the IG attended would not stand because the police have always discharged their duties professionally and fairly.

During the meeting it was resolved that Zambia police should be seen to be fair and professional in their dealings with all political parties.

The statement issued by ECZ public relations manager Cris Akufuna yesterday also said door to door campaigns of political parties should not comprise more than 10 people.

It further said political parties should refrain from importing political party cadres to areas where there were by-elections and that campaign headquarters for parties should be kept far apart as possible to avoid possible clashes.