In this audio, Copperbelt Province Police Commissioner Charity Katanga says she does not understand why police officers brutally beat one of the protesting CBU students, when he was already “disabled” as shown in a video published by News Diggers.
However, Katanga says it’s a “total fabrication” that the student died today at Kitwe Teaching Hospital, adding that she sent officers to verify reports but the hospital authorities refuted the claim.
In an interview with News Diggers this afternoon, Katanga said it was expected for police officers to react with force during violent situations, but explained that the law does not allow them to beat a person who is already in their custody.
“Murder is a very serious offence which cannot be pushed under the carpet, but at no point will people be expected to fabricate what is not there, simply because there was confusion. In this case, if police officers are stoned, what did they expect in return. Definitely they expect the police to apply force! That is what happened exactly,” Katanga said.
Asked to explain why the police were beating up a student, Katanga said the force shown on the video footage seemed excessive, but said there was need to investigate the reason for the beating.
“That is subject to investigations, I have instituted investigations regarding the same footage. I have seen it myself and we have seen police officers on that particular day and the student indeed being beaten on that particular day. But for the reasons and what transpired. I think it would be premature for me to state,” she said.
Asked if police officers were allowed to use that kind of force, Katanga said different situations attracted different reactions from police.
“There is a difference in situations over the kind of false which is supposed to be exercised. When a person is apprehended and is resisting arrest, minimum force can be used. But when the person is already confined, there is no need to beat. That is what the law says. It would be premature to say there is something wrong in that footage, but you can defer your question until such a time when we investigate,” Katanga said.
“What I can say is, if the person was already apprehended… it’s like I have gotten a person who has murdered somebody and that person is already disabled, I cannot get a gun and shoot that person because I have already apprehended that person. So now, that footage that you are talking about, yes we have seen all those police officers and this person is already on the floor, we need to investigate. We need to find out who is that student. I would really appreciate if that person is available. Is he one of the 53 or not? Those are the questions, that is why we have opened an inquiry so that we get the other side of the story from the student. As I have said, during apprehension, where there is force, we expect something like that to happen. But if the person is apprehended, definitely that person is disabled and you don’t expect that it can be like that.”
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She said it was not true that one of the students died from the police beating.
“It’s a total fabrication and what I can tell you is that this is just a public appetite for news, [otherwise] we don’t have such a report. Because of the same report, police were forced to go to the Kitwe Teaching Hospital to confirm if we have any such reports. There is no such report, and we urge the journalists to go there at Kitwe Teaching Hospital and check for themselves. It’s unfortunate that people want to peddle lies, which is unsubstantiated,” Katanga said.
She went further to give details of how the confusion started.
“We cannot lie, there were about two or three students who were injured. What happened is that 53 students, that is two days ago, between 24:00 hours and 02:00 hours were apprehended at the Copperbelt University. Some were apprehended from the university premises, others in their dormitories as they were pursued. So 53 students were arrested for conduct likely to cause breach of the peace. This was after they started pelting some stones to police officers,” Katanga explained.
“Of the 53, 52 were male and two were females. During the confusion, five doors were partially damaged, one windowpane for the security officer, one for the finance secretary. They were damaged by unruly CBU students, including eight padlocks, two were damaged by the students. So out of the 53, 15 were first-year students, eight were second-year students, 14 were their-year students, 11 were fourth year students and seven were fifth-year students.” (which bring the number to 55).
She said the students who were injured during the operation were taken to the hospital and and back to police.
“During the same operation, one police officer was injured on the arm, and also some students sustained some minor bruises during the apprehension. The police officer was taken to the hospital and attended to and was discharged. Equally, the two students who were apprehended were taken to the hospital, attended to and were brought back. Then yesterday 53, all paid admission of guilt,” narrated Katanga.
“So following the same issue where they are saying someone has died, police were forced to go to Kitwe Teaching Hospital to confirm those reports and they don’t have such records. If journalists want to hear from the hospital authorities, it’s important to go there and confirm what we have confirmed.”