Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has admitted that it is possible that the Lusaka Apex Medical University student who died in Chalala was shot by an officer of the Zambia Army because they use the undeveloped land around that area is used as a firing range.

And Kampyongo has attributed the rising number of criminal gangs in Kitwe and other towns of the Copperbelt Province to lack of mentorship programmes for children in churches, schools, homes and communities.

In a ministerial statement, Kampyongo admitted that the student may have been shot by soldiers, saying his ministry had already engaged the army to move its firing range to another area.

“Preliminary investigations show that the undeveloped land opposite the Kasama road campus of the Apex Medical University is used as a firing range by the Zambia Army. On the basis of the location where the student is said to have been standing at the time of the alleged shooting, it is possible that the said student could have been shot and caught up by a stray bullet from the range. Mr Speaker, the investigations into the matter however, are still ongoing. Until the facts are established, it would be irresponsible and premature to draw any conclusions. So we must therefore guard against speculations and misinformation. Mr Speaker, in the absence of the conclusive report on the alleged shooting, it is difficult to suggest that what should be done to avoid similar incidents in the future. The Zambia Police Service has nevertheless engaged the Zambia Army on the possibility of relocating the firing range go a less densely populated area. Mr Speaker, the government regrets the death of the student at the Lusaka Apex University,” Kampyongo said.

And Kampyongo revealed that 14 gang-related cases were before the courts of law, noting that a breakdown in mentorship systems was one of the leading causes of notorious gang activities.

“Government is concerned with the rising number of criminal gangs and crime in some parts of the country, especially on the Copperbelt province in general and the city of Kitwe in particular. Criminal gangs have largely been formed by young people aged between 19 and 34 years. In the last few months, gangs have been attacking innocent citizens, injuring them and stealing their personal properties such as handbags, money and cell phones. To contain the situation, the Zambia police service put in place a number of measures including the following the establishing of a task force to deal with the number of gangs and criminal activities in Kitwe. Intensified motorised and foot patrols and put up public sensitisation programmes especially through Radio Ichengelo on the dangers of criminal gangs, importance of reporting crimes to the police and encouraging members of the public to identify and report to the police youths involved in criminal activities and suppliers of ilicit drugs in their communities,” Kampyongo explained.

“Mr Speaker, the measures taken by the police to arrest the crime wave in Kitwe have so far resulted in the apprehension of 66 people for various gang related offences; ranging from aggravated robbery, two abductions, unlawful wounding causing grievous body harm and conduct likely to cause breach of peace. Sir, there are also 16 gang related cases before the courts of law in Kitwe. About 12 of these are in subordinate courts while four cases are in the High court. The robust response to gang crimes by the police has resulted in drastic reduction in gang related crimes in the city of Kitwe. Community sensitization coupled with vigorous police patrols have therefore helped reduce drastically the gang related crimes. Mr Speaker, given the success of the public sensitization in helping curb gang related crimes, allow me to appeal to members of the public to stay calm because the Zambia police service is working hard to rid our communities of all crime activities and to bring to book the perpetrators of these crimes.”

And responding to a question from Lukulu West UPND member of parliament Christopher Kalila who wanted to know if the reasons for the mushrooming gangs was lack of employment, Kampyongo said unemployment could not be the reason for such acts because the youths involved were quite young and were expected to be in school.

“There are various reasons and factors as to what we have these gangs. Yes indeed it would be easier to use lack of employment as the reason, but some of these youths are supposed to be in school. I don’t know how a person aged of 17 or 15 would claim to use lack of employment as a reason for becoming a gangster. That’s why we are saying that we have noticed a breakdown in the family systems, this we should acknowledge all of us and as leaders, we must start addressing some of these challenges and that’s why we are calling upon all the stakeholders including the Church and all of us here to try and help inculcate and instill the family values so that our children can be guided properly. But it’s not justifiable, which ever reason we can think of for youths to start forming gangs and start attacking innocent citizens, there is no justifiable reason at all. Yes indeed even in developed countries it’s common to find these gangs and so on our part through the Zambia Police Service, our role is to make sure that these gangs are busted and made to face the law and we keep them were they are supposed to be. We have got facilities where we are supposed to keep young offenders,” said Kampyongo.