FORMER Attorney General Musa Mwenye State Counsel says it is worrying that senior government officials and some police officers are promoting a beating culture of alleged law breakers in an attempt to enforce public health regulations on the Coronavirus.
Earlier this week, Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo warned that he would whip individuals who would be found patronising bars and nightclubs, disregarding a presidential directive that they close for two weeks in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19.
“What I have resolved now in Lusaka Province, instead of arresting those people because arresting those people taking them to cell rooms which we have are tiny, we can just risk the lives of those people more. So… I have bought whips… and I am not even going to the police, I will be whipping them. I will be whipping them because I am capable of doing that; I am very capable of doing that and I am equal to the task. It is now worrisome for the elderly, instead of thinking of their own health, they want other people to think on their behalf,” said Lusambo.
And Police spokesperson Esther Katongo who featured on Diamond TV brandishing a shot-button, said the police service considered the weapon a gazetted tool to use on people who defy orders.
“Our officers are on the ground and people when they see what is happening on social media in other countries where people are compelled to comply to directives they feel maybe it won’t happen in our country. As Zambia police we have gazetted whips I cannot pick any other thing to use when enforcing the law but this one is gazetted for the police and it is a whip. So if you want to dare authorities, if you want to dare the police, then you are welcome because our officers are also on the ground and we are going to ensure that the president’s directive is enforced. It is just not our benefit it is the benefit of everyone including those who are going to drink because from there, they are going to homes where they have got families. So families are home complying to all the preventive measures that have been highlighted, spelt out then you go ,you bring the virus and contaminate everyone in the family that one we are not going to allow,” said Katongo.
But Mwenye said corporal punishment was illegal.
“It is worrying that some senior Government officials and some police officers are promoting ‘beating’ of people to enforce public health regulations on Corona virus. Corporal punishment is illegal in Zambia and senior officials should not promote illegalities. The pandemic is a real threat and we all must sympathise with our officials’ desire to protect everyone’s health but we have enough laws and mechanism to do this without ‘beating’ the same people we want to protect. Lawlessness begets lawlessness. Let us fight the virus legally. We should avoid fighting the virus in ways that will lay foundations of anarchy and lawlessness that will persist long after the pandemic has ended,” Mwenye said.
He said police are expected to use minimum force on people who resist arrest.
“Police are not allowed to beat or whip people anyhow, they are only allowed to use reasonable minimum force on a suspect, if and only if a suspect resists arrest. No one, is allowed to whip people as a form of punishment. That is a crime. It is assault and battery and anyone doing that is committing a crime. They are assaulting defenceless citizens. This should worry all well meaning Zambians because, you can imagine what would happen if they beat someone who has a pre-existing life-threatening condition and that person dies, what will the minister or the police say? That will be murder,” said Mwenye in an interview.