UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says it was mobile unit junior police officers who beat up PF cadres after they were provoked, not the senior cops who were fired.
Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV’s Costa programme, Monday, Mweetwa said PF cadres taunted police in Sesheke and they were armed with pistols.
“I can tell you that it’s a very shameful route to take and I think they are behaving like kids! This is a bad way to accommodate a loss, but I understand them, they pumped in lot of money in that election than in any by-election. They took more iron sheets, more mealie meal, more chitienges and T-shirts and they had more vehicles than they have had in any by-election. And so for them, their huge expenditure would have [been] justified [by] their win, but I sympathise with them, they are bad losers! You don’t behave the way they have behaved. Yes, police were heavy-handed, but the particular incident they are complaining about was not one where you can accuse the police of heavy-handedness where their own cadres were found with pangas and pistols. What made police officers to react was that the cadres started taunting police officers, firing pistols in the air! Waving the pangas and accusing the commanding officer, Shapa Wakunguma, that he was working with the UPND, ‘twalaipaya lelo’ (We shall kill them today),” Mweetwa said.
“How can you have cadres threatening police officers? And the people who actually beat the hell out of them were not even those officers who have been illogically retired. The people who dealt with PF cadres were the mobile officers who were camped right behind the police station. The officers said, ‘we are not those senior officers who may be looking for promotions, we are here for work, stop insulting us!’ It is the junior officers who said ‘let’s teach these people a lesson!”
Mweetwa said police officers were in order to beat up PF cadres because they were armed and threatening.
“I don’t think the police had abused their powers, even if the police had done that to UPND cadres who they could have been found with pangas and pistols, I would not say that they did something beyond reasonable force. If the cadres are armed with pangas and pistols, what do you want the police to do other than using the force they used? They actually managed to get those pangas and those guns. I am a very sad person to note that the police who acted in that manner to restore order; you see a Republican President and ministers, retiring such officers,” Mweetwa said.
And Mweetwa charged that President Lungu’s Special Advisor for Politics Kaizer Zulu led a team of PF cadres and ordered police to charge at the UPND team where they allegedly fired live ammunition.
“There were only two or three incidents where PF and UPND cadres clashed! One was when UPND cadres were trying to put their flags along the street lights of Sesheke and PF cadres came to attack them with their misguided view that the UPND were removing their flags. This caused a riot because police came and started firing teargas. The second was in a ward called Maondo Ward, the entrance from Mwandi, where the UPND were having a very peaceful rally and the PF, driving a (Toyota) Land Cruiser came and indiscriminately started throwing stones and two very old women above the ages of 70 were badly injured. Those were the two notable incidences of the UPND-PF clashes; the rest were police versus the residents of Sesheke; Police versus PF. A particular incident of police versus UPND was on a Friday when President Lungu landed in Sesheke and was having a meeting in a place called Katimamulilo Ward, 40Km from where HH and the UPND were having small meetings because the police and us, we entered into an agreement that since President Lungu is in Sesheke, we shall not allow you to enter Sesheke because it’s small until President Lungu is done with his activities,” Mweetwa said.
“We obliged and held back out of Sesheke, but what surprised us was that whilst we were having a small meeting at our camp, police and PF cadres came to attack us, police officers were armed with guns, while PF cadres were armed with guns and pangas! The police had been there for a while ensuring that we don’t proceed into Sesheke, but under the leadership of Kaizer Zulu and other PF cadres, they came and instructed police to charge at us failure to which those who were leaders of that police team were going to be fired or retired. That’s how police charged at us and in the process they beat up people to an extent that we had to evacuate them around 02:00 hours.”
Mweetwa said as a trained former senior police officer, he could confirm that police fired live ammunition despite Police Inspector of Police Kakoma Kanganja refuting the claim.
“I wouldn’t want to engage in a dispute with IG Kanganja. Personally, I was a senior, superior police officer, that’s the advantage I have in understanding these issues. There is a difference, which we trained police officers know, even trained military personnel know. When a gun firing blank bullets is compared to a gun which is firing live bullets, there is a difference. There is a thump steam that comes out of a live ammunition. But I can tell you that the situation was so chaotic and for the IG to come out the way he came out, I sympathise with him, I don’t even think he has an iota of understanding what actually transpired! But we do have all the video evidence. The police and PF cadres attack were on us, a lot of people were injured and we scampered in all directions,” said Mweetwa.