A UNIVERSITY of Zambia (UNZA) animal technician at the School of Veterinary Medicine has narrated how he was bundled up by a combined team of police officers in Lusaka after suspecting him to be one of the criminals spraying unknown chemicals.
David Mwansa was made to spend a night at Matero Police station on charges of being in possession of ‘offensive weapons’ after a search on his vehicle where officers found various clinical materials used in his professional work.
He narrated the ordeal of his encounter with the police from Friday night when he was arrested until Saturday morning when he was released.
“So, what happened was, I was out on Friday, as usual, hanging out. I was at this pub owned by a police officer from 20:00 hours to 23:00 hours. I was in the company of a friend, so I gave him a ride to the area around Chingwere Dump Site. Just after the dump site gate, there is a left turn and that’s where my friend stays. So, I dropped him home, but the moment I was coming back to join the main road, the tarred road, that’s where I met the officers coming all the way from Chingwere cemetery there. So they stopped me, ordered me out of the car and asked for my ID, which I did [give them]. Then one officer asked if they could search my vehicle and I said ‘no problem’. When I opened the trunk, they noticed some used syringes, gloves and they asked what else I was carrying and I told them ‘the nature of my job is ABCD’ so you may see syringes, needles, some drugs’ and they insisted they wanted to see. So, I opened somewhere where I keep them and they said, ‘this is too much, we can see a [pair of] scissors, we can see capsules, drugs…’, so they said they were taking me to the police station,” Mwansa narrated in an interview with News Diggers!
“So, they ordered me out of the driver’s seat and drove me all the way up to Matero Police Station. Upon reaching there, they were called that there was a situation somewhere where a mob wanted to set someone ablaze. So, they left me by the reception and went back, they only came back around 04:30 hours, imagine that? So, when they came back, one lady officer who seemed to be in charge of the group told me that they needed to lock me up and their boss would interview me the next day at 11:00 hours. So I was put in the cells around 05:00 hours until 11:00 hours when the Officer-In-Charge for Matero came. When I was called out, I discovered my boss was already there in the company of my wife and other people as well. They basically just wanted to confirm with them if I was really from the University of Zambia and also get the side of my story, which I gave. After that, they asked one officer to record a warn and caution statement from me and a statement from my boss. Upon finishing, we discovered that the officer in charge was not even in the office and that he instructed one of the officers not to release my car until Monday, saying that it was a joint-operation between Matero and Emmasdale Police Station. So, I was made to sign the statement and the OB (Occurrence Book) before leaving.”
He, however, said he was surprised to read from the OB that he was charged with offensive weapons when he had no such items on him at the time he was arrested.
“When I read the book, it said I was found with offensive weapons. So before I could sign, I asked them ‘what offensive weapons did you guys see?’ And they said, ‘it’s okay, never mind, maybe the officer who wrote that was just excited.’ So, that was how I signed and left the police station. But you know, once I was at the police station, they took me to the CID (Criminals Investigations) Department where they treated me like I was a criminal and the officer was quizzing me to say, ‘manje wenzo chita chani mu manda (what is it that you were doing in the graveyard late at night)?’ But I wasn’t even at the graveyard. The location where I was picked up from was not a graveyard. And surprisingly, there was a WhatsApp group where this officer, who was asking me questions whilst I was answering, he was posting in this WhatsApp group and he posted to say I was found near the Chingwere ponds, but that was too far from where I was and I confronted him to just be factual. But he insisted on why I was found with the things they found me with, but I told him ‘the nature of my work requires that I move with these things and I told you where I was coming from, I had a job in the afternoon.’ So, I think the police have no respect for other professions. They will firstly treat you like a criminal before they have anything on you,” Mwansa complained.
He regretted that police officers could sometimes be too zealous and misrepresent facts in their statements.
“The way they write their statements, they don’t present the facts as they are, there was nothing offensive about what I had and I was not in the place where they purported I was. So, you can see that they don’t even communicate very well amongst themselves. Then the charge they charged me with, they charged me with being in possession of medical utensils or medical supplies suspected to be stolen or unlawfully obtained. So, they couldn’t even answer how the tools I use for my work could be suspected to have been stolen. So I just left it like that, but when a matter like that comes up again, we may need to give more information to such officers,” said Mwansa.
Commenting on the development, senior lecturer in charge of livestock and animal health economics at UNZA, Dr Chisoni Mumba, regretted that such incidences would affect the delivery of animal health care in the country because veterinarians would be afraid to move with their tools for fear of being arrested.
“In veterinary medicine, really, people cannot carry cows every time they are sick because veterinarians are not like medical doctors who have a hospital that they operate from. So, we do mobile veterinary services. We just receive calls to say, ‘an animal is sick’ then we go. So, most of the time, you find that all veterinarians will move with their tools. We actually have a tool box where all the medicine that is commonly used for diseases and the needles, tablets, capsules are put. So the problem now is that whoever is seen with these…and I can assure you that every veterinarian will actually move with these so that any time they are called at the farm, they will actually drive there. But what has happened to our colleague will now put the profession in an awkward position, and I feel it is going to affect the delivery of animal health care in this country because it means that we’re now living in fear. We cannot move with these kits which are very much needed in the delivery of animal health care,” said Dr Mumba.
“I think the police do not understand mobile veterinary practice and so this is just a call to the police that if they find someone like that, and they identify themselves as veterinarians, they should not be unnecessarily detained because it is easy to tell that these are medicines and this is a spray, which is being used. I also want to appeal to veterinarians that we should not really move aimlessly with the things that are currently happening in our country, so if you are not practicing, it’s best to just leave these things at home.”