Police in Chongwe yesterday stopped UPND president Hakainde Hichilema from touring Chongwe District, saying he needed a police permit to traverse through the area.

Chongwe officer-in-charge Aaron Banda, who was accompanied by about 15 other officers, argued that the gathering was an assembly and it needed to be stopped.

“The law says where three or more are gathered with a common purpose, it becomes an assembly. It’s not me, it is the lawmakers who said that! Now, how many are you here? Are you not more than three? We are on duty!” argued Banda.

And when a UPND supporter asked how many the police officers were, Banda got emotional and warned him from speaking to him in that manner, saying he was foolish.

But Hichilema explained that he was sympathizing with Chongwe residents, knowing that their only source of water, the Chongwe Dam, had nearly dried up.

“We couldn’t hold back our compassion arising from widespread reports on how our people in Chongwe District of Lusaka Province are suffering due to lack of safe and clean drinking water. Their only source of water, the Chongwe Dam, has nearly dried up due to drought and other factors related to disturbances of forest reserve recharge areas. Unfortunately, while sympathizing with our people, police citing the POA (Public Order Act) stopped us, stating that we needed to obtain a police permit in order for us to see how our people are suffering from hunger and thirst,” said Hichilema in a statement after the ordeal.

“We, however, advised the officers that we were not fighting them, but merely assessing what we could do for the communities, which included themselves, to ensure they accessed safe and clean drinking water. Additionally, we stated that our visit was to get facts on the ground to enable us work out a plan to ensure water for our people is availed through various means, including sinking boreholes. But the police vehemently insisted that we had no right to visit such places because they are run by government. Fellow citizens, this is what our country has been reduced to! We would like to state, however, that no one will stop us from working for the suffering citizens, and as such, we will continue striving for the greater good of everyone, including the police themselves.”