Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says intolerance among Patriotic Front and United Party for National Development cadres has reached shocking levels.
And Kampyongo says there was no malice on the part of police officers who are accused of murdering Zambia Air Force Flight Sergeant Mark Choongwa.
Responding to a point of order raised by Mwembeshi Independent member of parliament Machila Njamba on the persistent occurrence of violence between UPND and PF supporters yesterday, Kampyongo said intolerance between the two parties was disappointing.
“It is extremely disappointing that intolerance among some of the supporters of the two political parties have reached shocking levels of fighting each other even on solemn occasions such as funerals and at the cemeteries. Traditionally, funerals are sacred and bring all sections of our society to mourn the departed and out of respect for beloved ones. The reported violence that occurred at the cemetery and indeed elsewhere demonstrates the breakdown of morals in our society which His Excellency the President of Zambia Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu recently asked us to uphold and defend. Sir, we must arrest the moral decay in our midst,” Kampyongo said.
“It is for this reason that my government does not and shall not tolerate criminality regardless of who the perpetrator might be. I am however delighted that His Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia and the top leadership of the PF has condemned political violence and called on all our people to refuse to engage in all forms of violence. I cannot help but call on all political party leaders without any exemption, including religious leaders to preach only peace. Violence only begets violence and has never resolved any problem.”
Kampyongo condemned the clash between UPND and PF cadres at Memorial Park but blamed it on “criminal elements operating under the guise of political violence”.
“Mr Speaker, the clash which took place at Memorial Park between the suspected UPND and PF supporters is uncalled for. The clash which lasted for a short time however resulted in a number of people being injured and various items being stolen whilst an unregistered Toyota minibus was burnt down. Sir, criminal activities that unaccompanied the so-called political clashes simply suggest that criminal elements are increasingly taking advantage of criminal elements to commit crimes. The Zambia Police Service has instituted investigations into these criminal activities and shall in due course bring the criminals operating under the cover of political parties to book,” he said.
And Kampyongo said the joint inquiry by his ministry and the Ministry of Defense into the death of Flight Sergeant Choongwa revealed that there was no malice on the part of the police officers involved.
“…Also not in dispute is that some police officers at Woodlands Police Station used force to get him into the police station. The force used appeared to be excessive according to one of the inmates who was in the cells at the same time. This finding or observation is however in line with the postmortem report which attributed the death of Flight Sergeant Choongwa to trauma and stress. In the words of the report, ‘the trauma he suffered on his back and the stress of being in police custody triggered the chain of events which led to his sudden death on 18th March 2017’. The joint inquiry concluded that there was no malice or aforethought on the part of the police officers in question or any other person to murder the deceased. There was however, gross negligence on the part of the police officers in the manner they handled the whole matter up to the death of the late Flight Sergeant Choongwa,” Kampyongo said.
“A joint board of inquiry made three principle recommendations (i) that the police officers involved should be charged with manslaughter contrary to section 199 of chapter 87 of the laws of Zambia; (ii) that the relations between the Police service and defence forces should be harmonized and a spirit of comradeship amongst them cultivated and promoted and (iii) that the Zambia Police Service and defense forces should work together and ensure that an incident of similar nature does not ever occur in future. The government position on the findings of the joint board of inquiry, sir, my government has accepted the findings, conclusions of the joint board of inquiry into the death of Flight Sergeant Choongwa and to that end, four Zambia police officers who were involved in these sad events have since been arrested and charged with manslaughter. They are currently appearing before the courts of law.”
The Minister bemoaned the animosity among police and other security wings saying there was need for unity among them.
“Sir, I must mention that it is disheartening that our defense and police personnel who play complementary roles in securing the territorial integrity of our nation, its peace and security have negative perceptions of one another. The negative perceptions appear to have prevented the officers in this heart wrecking incident from according each other due and mutual respect. Negative perceptions of one another amongst our defense and security personnel promote disunity and poor relations amongst them. This sad state of affairs cannot be allowed to continue forthwith,” said Kampyongo.
“Our men and women in uniform regardless of the units or formations to which they belong must recognize and treat each other as comrades in securing the territorial integrity of our common heritage, Zambia; its peace, security and indeed prosperity. I am therefore compelled by duty to call upon all our commanders and in particular the Commander of the Zambia Army, Zambia Air Force, Zambia National Service and the Inspector General of Police to ensure that the unity, comradeship and decorum they accord each other as members of the Central Joint Committee must be extended to all men and women serving under them.”`