LAST weekend, Lusaka Police surrounded the opposition UPND secretariat searching for National Registration Cards (NRCs) in an operation that ended in the detention of party member Anthony Bwalya.
According to lawyer Marshal Muchende, the search warrant that police had was saying that the officers had reasons to believe that there were piles and piles of NRCs at the UPND secretariat, and they had permission of the court to search the premises of the UPND secretariat for those suspected NRCs and other documents.
This operation by the police puzzled us for several reasons. The NRC issuance exercise is done by the government through the Ministry of Home Affairs; they are the ones with the mandate and the equipment for issuing NRCs to citizens, not the opposition or any other Jim and Jack. So, if there is any political party that can embark on an exercise of illegally issuing NRCs, it can only be the party in power. In fact, this is what the Patriotic Front has been saying. We recall that on August 6, this year, party secretary general Davies Mwila decreed that the ruling party would turn the national registration exercise into a PF programme.
“The NRCs exercise, let us take it as the party programme. Let us all get involved. Nali chita discuss naba (I discussed with the) party chairman, we are working on a budget to see if we can release some few resources so that abantu besu bali munshila bale enda bale ongola abana mukuya lembesha ama Reg. As a party, we have taken it as a party programme. We want to involve all the party functionaries; we need to get the numbers. Once people are given NRCs, we expect to have a higher number of voters. Natwisa nama registers aya kweba ati mule lemba ama branch. Ama branch ya fwile ya fula, te kwi kala fye ati ama elections yali no kwisa (we have come with registers so that you can take note of people. The party branches need to grow, don’t just be idle and wait for elections).”
This is what Mr Mwila has been saying on several occasions since August, this year. According to him, the NRC registration exercise is now a PF programme and as the chief executive of the party, he has been on record making this declaration. So, like we have stated above, if there is any party that is desperate to print and issue NRCs, it is the ruling party.
What we now have to ask the police is if they have ever taken interest in searching the PF secretariat and its provincial offices to see if the party has been involved in the illegal exercise. But do our police officers take interest in investigating suspicious transactions that are linked to the PF? No, they are not. It appears that only the opposition can commit crimes and not the PF.
In our view, if the UPND would have committed a crime by being found in possession of NRCs for their members, then the PF has committed this crime on a number of occasions. In fact, social media is flooded with photographs of PF members making and issuing NRCs illegally. Why is it that the police have not taken interest to investigate that? Since when did this become a crime? In August, the PF secretary general said the party was taking charge of the NRC issuance exercise, so we are challenging the police to search the PF secretariat as well.
We are also wondering if police are telling us that any political party or individual can manage to print NRCs from the backyard. If this is the case, then we have a national security issue. How can it be so easy for people to print piles and piles of NRCs as claimed? If that is possible, what stops criminals and foreigners from issuing NRCs to themselves? Our country is not serious with issues of national security. We are a very careless nation that seems to have no direction at all.
Our police officers must strive to be professional and balanced in their enforcement of the law. We cannot have a police service that only applies to the opposition, while the real culprits are left to go scot-free. It’s unfair and undemocratic.