Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja says those who claim to have information which may lead to the prosecution of those behind gassing and don’t reveal such information or are found to be lying, may be charged for withholding information or alarming the nation.

And Kanganja says collectively, 43 people have died as a result of mob justice and stray bullets from the police since the gassing began.

Meanwhile, Kanganja yesterday got emotional as he recounted how the late former permanent secretary Timothy Hakuyu called him moments before he was killed by a mob in Gweembe.

Speaking when he addressed the media, Kanganja said none of those who had made public statements about knowing the gassing masterminds had availed such information to law enforcement agencies.

“I wish also to warn members of the public who are claiming to have information about happenings in the country to avoid going to the public as this is also causing fear in people but they should instead tender in their information to the police for appropriate action to be taken. We have made attempts by inviting some of them but no one has come forth. I am therefore, through you the media, extending an invitation to people who would have information to come through and avail such information. I wish to inform you that we will continue providing updates every after two days to avoid speculation and misinformation. After we find out that the information that they are withholding are beneficial to investigations then we will charge them with withholding information. So I am urging people with information to come forward and give information to the police that will assist with investigation. So if you have information please come so that we will deal with otherwise we will charge you when we discover that you have evidence which you are withholding,” he warned.

“As a peace loving police service, we will keep engaging them. But once we find that it is out of speculation, they will be charged because they have caused alarm already and they should take note that their utterances have caused alarm, they should come forth and assist the police to find what is happening. We will act as quickly as possible because we can’t keep on hanging on to such information, no, we need to move and they must move fast.”

And Kanganja warned those engaging themselves in mob justice that the law would soon catch up with them, disclosing that so far, five master minds had been arrested and charged with murder.

“An operation was conducted on 20th February, 2020 and apprehended five master minders in this particular issue of mob justice believed to have been influencing people in communities to kill and burn suspects. Among the suspects, three were picked from Kasisi area in Chongwe while two were picked in Lusaka’s Kanyama Compound and have been charged with Murder contrary to section 200 of the Penal Code. They are detained in custody and will appear in court soon. I am warning all those that have not been arrested yet that their days are numbered and soon they will be behind bars. As a result of mob justice emanating from false alarm, a total number of 43 people have died across the country while 23 were injured. Statistics further indicate that 511 reports connected to chemical spraying of poisonous substances on households have so far been received with 1,687 victims. 11 police infrastructure have been damaged countrywide as a result of public disorder,” he said.

He said police were empowered by law to use any amount of force when dispersing crowds as they could not be held liable for any deaths caused during such a process.

“The police are empowered [by law] to use force in dealing with these riotous crowds. You have heard the police saying “you cannot go with a bible when people are throwing stones and all these other things”, that’s we are issuing these fire arms and we work with the confines of the law so you can read on section 78 of the penal code, but a police officer shall not be held liable for any injury or death caused during such a process so please take note of that,” he said.

He said 16 people had been arrested in connection with gassing.

“16 suspects have been arrested in connection with the reports of chemical spraying of which some have begun appearing in courts of law. Some of these 16 suspects were behind criminal activities experienced in Chingola District on the Copperbelt as well as North Western Province. This points to some inter connection in criminals behind this spate of crime. An investigation team comprising various stakeholders has been constituted to conduct investigations and great progress has been recorded. A conclusive outcome of the investigations will be availed to the public when investigations are concluded,” Kanganja said.

He said the motive behind the gassing incidents was to instill fear in the public and cause instability in the country.

Meanwhile, a visibly emotional Kanganja recounted conversation he had with Hakuyu moments before he was killed.

“But I will tell you one sad story about this incident. On that particular day, you know it was a rainy day here in Lusaka, around 07:15 there about. You know at times I also drive on my own, I do, even in uniform I go round just to see what is happening. I saw a call consistently on my phone, I said ‘ah, but what could this be’, then I answered, ‘oh, this is Hakuyu, I am being killed, hear the noise behind here’, I said ‘where are you’, he said ‘I am in Gwembe, they have even burnt my car and now they want to…’, I said ‘oh my God, what is this’. Then I called the commissioner, ‘please commissioner, people are being killed in Gweembe, send officers there’. Sadly, 10 minutes after I receive a call, that he has been killed, I feel bad, I will ensure that this matter is thoroughly investigated,” Kanganja lamented.

“Those allegations they are talking about what was found with him, the syringes, I know that Mr Hakuyu was diabetic but anyway we have subjected them to laboratory tests but I know the syringe was used for his diabetic situation but otherwise we are investigating that matter. I think I have become emotional now because of this question you have asked me. I talked to that person minutes before he died, that’s how sad, I could hear people breaking the room where he was.”

And Kanganja claimed the two Chingola top cops were arrested for negligence.

On Wednesday, News Diggers! reported that police had recorded warn and caution statements from the Chingola District Officer Commanding Peter Miselo and District Criminal Investigations Officer (DCIO) Wellington Falanga who have allegedly been implicated in the gassing incidences on the Copperbelt.

But when asked to address this issue at his briefing, Kanganja said the duo was being charged for negligence.

“People are trying to connect the action we have taken against the officers to the gassing. That is not correct. The Action we have taken against the officers is about the omission, they failed to perform their duties according to what they were supposed to do, that is why they are being charged. It is not that they are part of the people gassing, no. They should not connect these two matters, this other one is administrative, why we are charging those officers, they failed to perform their duties. That’s how serious we are looking at this matter so people should not trivialize these cases, that’s why out own officers are being punished,” said Kanganja.

Meanwhile, speaking at the same briefing, Ministry of Information and Broadcasting permanent secretary Amos Malupenga appealed to the media to be cautions as it reports on gassing as it risks worsening the situation.