A determined crowd this morning overpowered police officers at the Lusaka Magistrate’s Court who were blocking people from entering a courtroom where Hakainde Hichilema was scheduled to appear for continued trial in the case of “using insulting language”.
The drama, which lasted for about 10 minutes, started when police changed their security screening mechanism at the entrance to the court premise, and stopping people from entering the courtroom before 08:30 hours.
Fully armed police with their German Shepard dogs were manning the only entrance to the Magistrate’s Court complex, which police left open opposite the Lusaka Central prison.
Hundreds of people wishing to access the premises were subjected to serious scrutiny before being allowed in, and members of the public who attempted to push their way through were threatened with the dogs.
Meanwhile, police officers manning the door to the courtroom introduced new rules – telling all court attendees to wait outside until 08:30 when they allowed journalists to enter; causing a pull and push kerfuffle in the process.
The scuffle lasted about 10 minutes as police tried to keep everyone, including lawyers and witnesses outside.
The crowd finally overpowered police and managed to get into the courtroom to find seats, much to the disappointment of the police officers.
Inside the courtroom, Defence lawyer Jack Mwiimbu raised a complaint against the police to magistrate Malumani.
“We would like to raise issues pertaining to the conduct of police. You do recall that in our last sitting, you did provide guidance and rulings pertaining to the conduct of police vis à vis the rights of counsel to enter the court premises. We would like to bring to your attention that a number of my colleagues were inconvenienced by police who locked the front gate. And it is not only lawyers but other litigants. These premises are in control of the court and if there is need to take any extreme measures, consultations have to be made with the judiciary. It is therefore our plea that you restate your position on the conduct of police within the precincts of the court,” said Mwiimbu.
State advocates also said they were inconvenienced by police.
“We would just like to state that the observations made by the defense are not peculiar to the defense. We have also been inconvenienced and we leave it to the court.
Magistrate Malumani then asked who was the most senior police officer supervising the security men?
“Before I fully address the issue raised, I’ll task the prosecution to determine who the most senior police officer is. Once the officer is identified, i will take time to address this. When we break, I will remind you so that we address this complaint,” said magistrate Malumani.