Police in Eastern Province have released two PF officials who were arrested for storming Catholic Church-run Radio Maria on claims that the church leadership had withdrawn the matter.
But Chipata Diocese Chancellor Fr Dennis Phiri expressed surprise at the development, wondering how forgiving the PF youths for their unruly conduct would override the law that the police were expected to enforce.
On Wednesday night, a horde of PF cadres led by Eastern Province treasurer Zephaniah Mwale stormed Radio Maria in Chipata District, threatening to burn down the station for featuring Maxon Nkhoma, a governance activist and supporter of aspiring Provincial chair Elias Daka aka Eliboma.
The cadres also issued death threats against Radio Maria news editor Tobias Daka and anchor of the programme, which featured Nkhoma, urging him to find personal security to accompany him whenever he leaves his home.
On Friday, State House spokesperson Amos Chanda said President Edgar Lungu did not understand why there was so much police inaction regarding crimes committed by PF supporters.
On the same day, PF cadres rushed to Chipata Diocese Auxiliary Bishop Benjamin Phiri to apologise for their conduct.
According to a statement issued by Eastern Province PF provincial chairperson Andrew Lubusha, Saturday, Bishop Phiri forgave the PF officials.
“Following reports of alleged violence by some of our youths in Chipata in which they stormed Radio Maria, we as a party in Eastern Province took time to meet Bishop Benjamin Phiri to discuss the mater. We apologized to the Church and took responsibility of the error and pledged never to let our youths engage in such behavior not just to radio Maria but to Journalists in Eastern Province in general. As a party, we further promised continue working hand in hand with the Catholic Church as they have been a greater partner in development and a source of inspiration in peace building and reconciliation,” stated Lubusha.
“And Bishop Phiri was impressed with our bold step to engage him in creating a stronger relationship. He however disclosed that the Church was unhappy but had forgiven the people behind the confusion stressing that the people involved should reflect on what they did and should see this as a turning point in reforming for the better. Bishop Phiri further expressed concern that such was happening when the country was having a nation dialogue. He insisted on a fact that political parties must ensure that peace, unity and oneness is exhibited in our country.”
Police, however, swung into action and arrested Mwale and Nkhoma, Saturday afternoon only to be released under unexplained circumstances at 07:09 hours on Sunday.
“That case has been closed. We picked them up yesterday but today, some party officials came to the radio station early in the morning to demand their release. Even if you call the police commissioner right now, he won’t tell you anything because he is in an awkward position,” police sources told news Diggers.
And when called for a confirmation, Eastern Province police commissioner Luckson Sakala said he could not make any comment because he was out of the station.
Meanwhile, Fr Phiri said he did not understand whether forgiveness could override the law, when asked whether the church had withdrawn the matter.
“I think the Commissioner of Police would be the best to answer that question. I am sure you have heard that two days ago, even before they were arrested, the Bishop was approached by the leadership and the bishop forgave, so I don’t know whether forgiveness and withdrawal are the same, I don’t know,” said Fr Phiri.