Police Spokesperson Esther Katongo says if Yellow Card protesters go ahead with their planned protest without a permit, officers will move in with force.
And Katongo says it is not right to label the entire police service corrupt when some hard working officers are able to acquire some wealth in an honest manner.
But Governance Activist Maiko Zulu has wondered why the police cannot use the manpower which is used to disperse protesters to man demonstrations.
The duo was speaking when it featured on Hot FM’s The Hot Issue, Wednesday evening.
“The law says that if as police we feel we are not able to police that event, in an instance where those people intending to have that protest go ahead, then that protest or that gathering is going to be deemed as an illegal one, and you know what happens if something is not legal. Police will move in and disperse. And we don’t just move in with full force, we still engage them and after engaging them, if they are still adamant and want to go ahead, then the police will use force,” Katongo warned.
“So we don’t want to go that way because they (Yellow Card against Corruption protesters) have already written back to the commissioner of police asking for the alternative date.”
She said police had a huge operation on the proposed date and could not manage to man the protest.
“Allow me to mention also that people may just feel that we are just saying that we don’t have manpower [but] we also have planned activities. That Friday that they are talking about, we have a very big operation which we planned a long time ago. You just monitor and see what happens. And I also want to state that as Zambia Police, our manpower levels are too low. And when you look at some salient features by our colleagues, they talked about ending their protest around 23:00 meaning that you need a good number of police officers. We cannot deploy officers from the time that they are going to start and those same officers have to go up to 23:30 and we work in shifts,” Katongo said.
Katongo said it was sad that people always forgot about the times when police made decisions in favour of the opposition.
“It could be that at the time that when those other people applied or notified the police to have those protests, maybe we had no challenges but in this case, we have other challenges which we are pinpointing. Last time we gave them the go-ahead to do their protest at parliament but the problem is when we gave them a go ahead, there was a disturbance from cadres suspected to be PF cadres. So these are the challenges we face. And most of our challenges are not appreciated by other people or other groupings. Whenever we make a decision in favour of the opposition or people with opposition views, in future you will not even relate to it to say ‘police favoured this group’ you always go for the negatives,” she said.
Asked if police officers also needed to undergo a lifestyle audit, Katongo said it was wrong to assume that all police officers were corrupt.
“I have four vehicles and we are working. And we have officers who are doing quite well. Some of us don’t even hide what we have. For some people who have been watching family matters, we even showed whatever we have because we know how we acquire things. It is not that when you see someone driving two or three vehicles then that person is corrupt, no. But not to say that we have no officer who is corrupt, we have been discussing corruption in the police service [and] yes we have some elements of police officers who are corrupt. But not to say that the corruption has now engulfed the whole institution such that we want to prevent any protest against corruption from happening, that is very wrong,” said Katongo.
Meanwhile, Zulu said it was ironic that police always found manpower to disperse protestors.
“I just find it ironic that the police are able to find manpower, say if we went ahead with the peaceful protest without their consent then it becomes illegal and so then manpower will be found. So they can’t use that manpower to police our protest? The corruption that we are protesting against is largely responsible for use failing to employ enough police to today because those billions of dollars that you are seeing in individual accounts, that is the money that is supposed to go towards recruitment of the police, that is the money that is supposed to go towards community policing. By the way we are not an opposition, we are not politicians, we are concerned citizens who worry because even if the police say they do not have enough manpower to police our protest, sometimes you would think that yes they do not have the manpower because of the massive corruption,” said Zulu.