UPND deputy spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa says plans to set up a commission of inquiry into gassing are just a calculated move to buy time and hide the truth from the public on who the masterminds are.

In his parliamentary address on progress made in the application of the national values and principles to the fourth session of the national assembly, Friday, President Edgar Lungu said he was seriously considering constituting a commission of inquiry on the gassing attacks that have recently rocked various parts of the country.

“Mr Speaker, at this juncture, I wish to thank the men and women in uniform for their gallant efforts to restore order and peace. Their work is not over. Neither is ours. As commander-in-chief of the defense forces and head of state and government, I want to promise Zambians that the enemies of our people will be crushed and buried. To this effect, I am seriously considering constituting a commission of inquiry to get to the bottom of these gassing and mob attacks, and be rest assured that all the culprits will be brought to book regardless of their standing in society. The enemy will surely be defeated, without any doubt, and life will return to normal for our people sooner than later,” said President Lungu.

But in an interview, Mweetwa, who is also Choma Central member of parliament, said security wings had the capacity to get to the bottom of gassing, arguing that it would be a waste of resources to constitute an inquiry.

“We do not have confidence in setting up of commissions of inquiry, a number of commissions of inquiry have been set and all that has happened is wastage of tax payers’ money, no tangible results. But coming to this particular issue, we think that a commission of inquiry is a waste of time and a waste of tax payers’ money. It is calculated to hide the truth from the public as the public will be made to wait for the commission’s findings before they can begin to question what is really happening over the issue of gassing. The gassing issue is a criminal activity whose results can be given by a security agencies and the government. They have sufficient capacity within government apparatus to be able to get to the bottom of this and be able to indicate exactly what is going on,” Mweetwa said.

“So, let the government just tell us the truth, let them tell us because we expected President Lungu to have told us, out of the 26 people he mentioned that have been arrested, how many have appeared at court and what offenses have they been charged with? Such simple facts. Do they need a commission of inquiry? The police have been able to arrest a number of suspects, those suspects must have told them the master minder, must have told them their funders, they know. We have been insisting that these people know so why are they trying to provide further platforms for speculation? So let the government not talk about commission of inquiry, people want the truth now and not tomorrow, it is a gimmick to buy time to hide the truth from the people.”

And Mweetwa wondered how security wings would curb political violence when those who rightfully apply the law were retired in national interest.

“We welcome those pronouncements, but those pronouncements he made yesterday are a damning indictment of failure in terms of progress in the application of national values and principles. Ideally, the President is supposed to come and give us feedback on the progress made, but yesterday, did he give any progress that has been made in terms of ending electoral violence, no! He just made a directive as if he became President the day before yesterday. He has been Commander-in-Chief since 2015 and as Commander-in-Chief he has had the mandate and power to direct security agencies, and in fact, security agencies already have that mandate with or without a presidential directive. It is their mandate to ensure law and order, to ensure that there is no violence because violence is a criminal act but political interference is what is the problem. Police are failing to execute their duties professionally because they are fearing to be retired in national interest and a case in point is Sesheke where police decided to act professionally and meted out Justice on PF thugs and you saw what happened, those officers who were accused of having had the supervision over the troops on the ground were retired in national interest,” said Mweetwa.

“So when on one side you are retiring police in national interest who are trying to act professionally, then in another breath you are talking of stemming out or ending violence, then it is a mixed ground, we don’t know what to take for now, actions speak louder than words, if President Lungu wanted to end violence, he didn’t need to wait for address to Parliament to make those proclamations, he should have made them when he was in Chilubi where there was untold violence, he kept quiet when he was in Chilubi he didn’t talk about it, he was waiting to come and address Parliament…but we give him a benefit of doubt, we cannot rule him completely offside that what he said cannot be done. Zambians love their peace and I am sure he is now aware, we think he will do everything within his powers to try and restore rule of law, as it is not as it is said.”