THE 24 suspected PF supporters who were arrested last month in Lusaka’s Chawama Compound for being in possession of offensive weapons and trafficking in marijuana, have denied the charges against them.

The 24 men, aged between 14 and 48, appeared before the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court yesterday where they pleaded not guilty to the offences.

They were arrested in the early hours of Tuesday, December 22, 2020, after Zambia Police conducted a joint operation with the Lusaka City Council (LCC).

Joshua Chitwaka and 23 other accused persons, who include; pupils, businessmen, drivers and some unemployed men, are charged with one count of possession of offensive weapons and another count of trafficking in psychotropic substances.

It alleged that the 24 accused persons on December 22, 2020, in Lusaka, jointly and whilst acting together, did possess offensive weapons, namely, four machetes, one golf stick, one axe and six bars without lawful authority or excuse.

The accused persons are also alleged to have on the same date trafficked in psychotropic substances, namely, 316.1 grammes of marijuana, a herbal product of cannabis sativa.

And when the matter came up for plea before Magistrate Betty Malupenga, Thursday, the accused persons who are all remanded in custody said they understood the charges after they were read to them.

They all pleaded not guilty.

The matter comes up on February 1, this year, for commencement of trial.

And as the accused persons were being bundled in the police vehicles after leaving the courtroom, some of the accused persons were heard shouting that ‘ifwe ni Edgar Lungu fye, twaba naba Lungu not Kampyongo,’ while raising a PF symbol.

Others were also heard saying that they would be released soon as they did not commit any offence: tatwiba, ifwe teifwe bakabolala, tukafuma ta twakwata umulandu (we don’t steal and we are not thieves. We will be released because we don’t have an offence).

On December 22, 2020, Police in Lusaka arrested 24 people for possession of offensive weapons following a joint operation by the service and the LCC in Lusaka’s Chawama compound.

The suspects were allegedly behind the criminal activities, which had been on the rise in Chawama and the surrounding areas.

Zambia Police spokesperson Esther Katongo and LCC public relations officer Emmanuel Lupikisha stated in a joint statement that the suspects would also be handed over to the Drug Enforcement Commission (DEC) because they were found with some marijuana.

According to the statement, a number of offensive weapons, including axes, knives, machetes, golf sticks and a spear were recovered during the operation.

“Police in Lusaka have in the recent past received numerous complaints from members of the public in Chawama and surrounding compounds on a rise in criminal activities, which had culminated into breaches of public peace, blockage of main roads, such as Chifundo road, harassing, attacking and assaulting of innocent members of the public. Police also received information that the criminals were using a local private structure in John Howard where a group of suspected perpetrators of various crimes were occupying one room from where various illegal activities were taking place, hence causing fear in people in the area. It is suspected that the said structure was harbouring criminals behind a spate of criminal activities experienced in the area and surrounding compounds. Arising from this, in the early hours of Tuesday, 22nd December, 2020, around 01.00 hours, Zambia Police conducted a joint operation with the Lusaka City Council during which an assortment of offensive weapons were recovered such axes, Knives, machetes, golf sticks and a spear,” stated Katongo.

“Additionally, 24 suspects were picked up and unascertained quantities of marijuana were found on some of the suspects. During the operation, it was discovered that the structure, which was being used by the suspected criminals operated a bar and restaurant in a filthy environment and was without a liquor licence and public health permit, contrary to the provisions of the law. Those arrested are detained in police custody [and] are yet to be charged for being found in possession of offensive weapons and will further be handed over to the Drug Enforcement Commission for the drug-related offences.”