Last week during a live programme on Diamond TV, Katongo warned that police would whip anyone who would be found patronizing bars during the COVID-19 quarantine period.
“If we tell you not to go there and you go there, we are going to whip you. You already know that you are not supposed to go to a bar to do the drinking there. We have got other work which we are supposed to be doing as police and then we come again to tell you to say ‘no, move out because you are not supposed to be drinking [because] there is this directive,’ which you know. We will just come and whip you without warning you,” said Katongo.
But Mweetwa, who is also a former police officer, said in an audio statement that police were only supposed to take suspects to court.
“As UPND, we are gravely concerned about the statement in circulation attributed to the police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo in which she is sounding a warning to people that if they will be found in bars or drinking places, they are going to be whipped without warning. We find this outrageous because there is no law that empowers Zambia Police to be whipping people if they are found breaking the law. The law is very clear, even a murder suspect cannot be whipped by the police. Such a person is just supposed to be apprehended and taken to court. There is no law that has been passed by the parliament of Zambia in which police have been empowered to begin to whip people,” Mweetwa said.
Mweetwa said the COVID-19 pandemic had not changed the laws of Zambia.
“So, if a person is found drinking in a bar against the presidential directive or Statutory Instruments that have been promulgated, we expect the police to apprehend those people and take them to relevant authorities with relevant jurisdiction. The Coronavirus outbreak has not changed the laws of Zambia. So, madam Esther Katongo, don’t be excited,” he said.
“Torture is not allowed in Zambia. Extrajudicial measures have not been introduced as a result of this Coronavirus outbreak. Police should act within the law. No state of emergency has been declared for police to begin to use means that are not prescribed by law. We expect the Inspector General of police to respond and condemn this statement which in my view has arisen out of excitement. The fact that police put on police uniforms does not mean that they themselves can begin to make laws for this country. They are there to enforce laws that are made by parliament.”
Mweetwa appealed to Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja to set the record straight and condemn Katongo’s remarks.
“Let not the police exacerbate the sufferings that the people are already going through. We all want to work together to support the government of the day and ensure that we confront this Coronavirus issue head-on. That does not mean that the Zambia police have accumulated for themselves extra powers that are not in any laws of this country. Who tells you to begin to whip people? We ask the Inspector General of Police to put the record straight [that] there is no whipping of people. If people are to break the law, apprehend them and present them before the courts of law [because] that is where they have the jurisdiction to mate out punishment. You are even waving the button. That button can only be used where there is resistance. As former Zambia Police officer, I detest overzealous police officers who make the police look bad,” said Mweetwa.