Copperbelt Province Police Commissioner Charity Katanga says police arrested pastors and CTPD officials who gathered to discuss the national budget because they digressed from the topic and started talking about politics, which incensed other discussants.
And Katanga says she does not perform her duties in order to get noticed and promoted by President Edgar Lungu, but rather follows the Public Order Act in managing public gatherings.
Meanwhile, Katanga says the arrested clergy and CTPD officials have all paid admission of guilt fees because they were remorseful and did not want to have the matter taken to court.
A fortnight ago, Police in disrupted a pastors’ meeting at Ndola Central Baptist Church organised by Centre for Trade Policy and Development to reflect on the proposed 2019 national budget.
But Commissioner Katanga said police arrested eight of the conveners for unlawful assembly in church, a move that caused public outrage and condemnation against Katanga.
News Diggers went further to publish an editorial opinion to the effect that there was desperation among Provincial Police Commissioners to get noticed by the Head of State and be promoted, hence their brutal policing.
But Katanga, who called News Diggers! to explain the circumstances behind the arrested of pastors and CTPD officials, also complained about the opinion, saying she does not apply the law in order to get promoted but to serve the country.
Commissioner Katanga said she was concerned that the public was condemning her actions when in fact, the complaint came from within the participants of the meeting.
“The agenda for that meeting was the budget, policy and the other things, but what was discussed there was not part of that. They started bordering on other issues, and themselves, including the clergy who were aggrieved reported the matter to police. The complaint came from themselves the participants. They said ‘there is this that is happening here and we are not comfortable with what is being discussed here’, that is how you saw those police officers. Mind you the Public Order Act says even when there is a notice for lawful assembly, at some point that meeting can become unlawful when something going on there can cause the breach of peace,” Katanga said.
“The premises were paid for and it was not in the church itself, but it was a church hall where people gather. And you may wish to know that the Public Order Act sir can be very weird, but it gives us power even over church meetings. When they have events like overnight and crusades or those kinds of gatherings, they have to notify the police. That was not the case, they did not notify the police, but even then, it was not something that the police worried about. It’s only when the complaint came from one of them that we moved in as police, and you may wish to know that when stopping such a gathering you can’t send one officer because there can be resistance, that is why a battalion was sent.”
Katanga refused to name the people who complained to police, and when asked to explain what “other things” were being discussed away from the meeting’s agenda, the Commissioner said she could not go into such details neither.
“Just like you don’t disclose the ones who give you information for protection, I will not disclose to you the names, and I am not gong to go into the nitty-gritties of what they started discussing. But they complained and the police arrested eight out of the 53, the others ran away. When they were released on bond, these people even went to plead to the minister over what they did, and they were told to go and see the commissioner. I wasn’t even around but they had to wait until I returned,” she explained.
“After these people pleaded, we reduced the charge from unlawful assembly to conduct likely to cause a breach of the peace. They were given an option that if they wanted we could go ahead to take the matter to court for unlawful assembly, but if they are feeling guilty over what happened, we could reduce it to ‘conduct’ which is payable. They have all paid admission of guilt; I have eight deposit slips here, because they didn’t want the matter to go to court. That is what happened, but people have taken this out of proportion because they have other agendas.”
She complained against the News Diggers opinion.
“The way the News Diggers article came out seemed to suggest that I am being unfair in the application of the law because I am looking for a certain position, which is not the case. We do not work like that. But we don’t have a platform like you to explain these things, so you have to be fair when you write about us,” complained Katanga.
“It is not always that where there is an illegal gathering then we have to be ballocking these people, there are many cases when we have only talked to people like Honourable Chishimba Kambwili and Honourable Harry Kalaba that ‘this is what the law says, so next time don’t do that’. In this case, I think it’s important for people to know what transpired because they don’t have the information that we have.”