PATRIOTIC Front cadres on Monday evening stormed Intercontinental Hotel and brought to an abrupt end a Law Association of Zambia-organised public discussion on Constitutional Amendment Bill number 10 of 2019.
The discussion dubbed “Bill 10, a lawyer’s perspective”, was interrupted half way into the program when the PF cadres over powered some police officers who were present and stormed into the hall while screaming and shouting various intimidating words like, “iwe ka moderator iwe”.
The PF cadres, who were led by Eastern Province PF youth chairman Emmanuel Banda with his Lusaka Province counterpart Daniel Kalembe were ferried in two Rosa buses and van.
They immediately invoked anxiety in the auditorium as guests panicked to find a way out of the premises.
During this fracas, the panelists, PF Deputy Chief Whip Tutwa Ngulube, Eastern Province Minister Makebi Zulu, Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwimbu and his Choma Central counterpart Cornelius Mweetwa stayed put at the high table, appealing for calm and hoping the situation would soon be controlled.
However, some UPND officials, including UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka, UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka had to whisked to safety upon noticing that the unruly cadres were charging towards them.
The moderator tried to call for calm but the unrelenting cadres continued intimidating people and most of them ran for safety.
Outside, some guests, mostly women, were attacked and cadres stole their belongings.
Some women were seen looking traumatized and crying after the ordeal.
The moderator attempted to continue with the debate but Mwiimbu and Mweetwa said they could not proceed in such an environment and left, forcing the organisers to prematurely terminate the programme.
Calm was only restored after more police officers were deployed to the hotel.
After the fracas, Ngulube charged that those were not PF cadres but that they hailed from Southern Province.
And speaking to journalists, Law Association of Zambia (LAZ) president Eddie Mwitwa condemned the political cadres for disrupting such an important, educative event saying the association would write to the Inspector General’s office over the harassment.
“First of all, the purpose of holding that discussion forum was to give an opportunity to our members and any person that was interested in hearing what our members, and who are members of parliament, have to say about the Bill. It is not everyday that we have access to members of parliament and for us as LAZ, we thought that we were quite privileged at the moment because we have such influential members of parliament; the Government Chief whip is a member of LAZ; the Deputy Chief Whip honourable Tutwa Ngulube is a member of LAZ; the leader of the opposition honourable Jack Mwimbu is a member of LAZ,” Mwitwa said.
“So we thought that we could hear what they have to say from a legal perspective about what the bill is all about and then we were going to give an opportunity to our members to ask questions as lawyers on the ramifications on the bill; the contents of the bill. I think anybody who was in attendance at that forum may have at least, for the time the discussion proceeded, may have learnt one or two things from the honourable members that had come so as to understand something on Bill 10.”
He said it was clear that the cadres were sent by somebody who did not want the debate to proceed.
“So to see the disruption which appears to be orchestrated by somebody happening in the manner it did, is just so disturbing and for me it is clear evidence of the break down of the rule of law in our country. People that came, I will not speculate whether they were PF cadres or UPND cadres but all I know is that they were definitely not people that meant well and they seemed to have come with an agenda and they seem to have been sent by somebody,” he said.
“Reports that we are receiving is that they came in two bus loads and that they were also ferried in a van; so there were two buses and a van that were organised to take them to a hotel. That is a hotel for goodness sake! We have tourists that come through to the hotel and if they see our country that has been held as a beacon of peace exhibiting those levels of lawlessness, I think it doesn’t auger well for our democracy and the rule of law. There was no justification whatsoever for those thugs to come and disrupt our event which was organised for a noble purpose.”
Mwitwa hoped the perpetrators would be brought to book.
“The constitution amendment bill is something I think has been on the lips of everybody; the President, the Minister of Justice are on record and they have said no one should be denied an opportunity to debate this bill. To see that happening was very very unfortunate we hope that the police will be keenly interested with what happened there is video footage of what happened; there are some faces that are clearly visible and we will be writing to the Inspector General Police to lodge a formal complaint and request that investigations be done and to see who where behind that fracas being brought to book,” said Mwitwa.
“It is unfortunate that some of our members were badly beaten; others had their wallets, purses, car keys and phones stolen. Clearly, these are people who came with an agenda to cause harm; an agenda to disrupt; an agenda to thwart that debate and also to kill freedom of expression and assembly. We condemn what happened in strongest terms possible and we hope that stakeholders who were following what was happening can join us in condemning that behavior; it should not be allowed to happen in a democratic state which is also a Christian nation.”