NOT even me, as Minister of Home Affairs, would tell someone to say go and whip that one, go and arrest that one, says Stephen Kampyongo.
And Kampyongo has condemned the manner in which police officers dispersed some Mkushi Bread of Life congregants recently.
Lusaka Province Minister Bowman Lusambo has suffered widespread criticism for ordering police to whip people found abrogating Presidential COVID-19 prevention measures. Lusambo also declared that he’d personally participate in whipping bar patrons.
But speaking when he featured on 5FM’s Special Interview, Tuesday, Kampyongo said officers were trained to make a fair judgement on how to enforce laws during the course of their work.
He said officers were only supposed to apply minimum force where necessary and proportional to the resistance.
“A trained officer must be able to make a fair judgement as they engage the members of the public. The minimum force which can be applied must be proportional to the resistance that a police officer is facing on the ground. What we saying is that as the police are carrying out their duties, depending on the situation, they can engage members of the public, only when it becomes necessary that they can revert to use some amount of minimum force,” Kampyongo said.
“We are also saying that for any operation that you undertake, you know the requirement. When there’s an operation order, you know who gives instructions. Not even me as Minister of Home Affairs would tell someone to say go and whip that one, go and arrest that one. It doesn’t work like that. Police officers know the way instructions are given to them. Even when to invoke the minimum force, it must be lawful instructions from the hierarchy of command.”
And Kampyongo urged Police officers to ensure that they conducted themselves professionally and strike a balance between observing people’s liberties and enforcing the law.
“Like the Inspector General of Police stated, we are encouraging our officers to ensure that they conduct themselves professionally and ensure that they strike a balance between observing people’s liberties and enforcing the law. Even where they are applying the minimum force, that minimum force must be proportionate to the resistance. I must take this opportunity to express our regret over the incidence that we might have seen circulating on social media where members of the Bread of Life International Church in Mkushi had a challenge with our police officers. That is what we can say, not acceptable. Because the way you engage a person who is a drunkard defiant should not be the same way (you engage) people that you have found at a church. You can use your judgement in terms of engagement,” Kampyongo said.
He, however, urged citizens to comply with President Lungu’s directives.
“I can acknowledge that we have received these complaints [of police officers using excessive force] from various quarters and I think Inspector General of Police pronounced himself on these matters. He emphasized the point that when all our officers are on duty, they have got a responsibility to assess the situation. When we say ‘people please stay away from the bars’, it must be understood that we stay away from bars. If we say these are outlets where you can just buy takeaway and go home, we are not saying buy these takeaways and sit in your cars, more than four people in the car, and start drinking from there. So if people for starters can listen to the message and comply, there wouldn’t even be these complaints that we are talking about of people having difficulties with the police,” said Kampyongo.
“Even for people, don’t think the police are also happy to be moving in the night to be chasing around elderly people, to say “don’t gather like this, the wedding shouldn’t have so many numbers” even the funerals. We are in challenging times. Let’s cut down, you don’t need the police to come and scatter you from the graveyards. If we are able to listen, we will certainly avoid all these complaints that are coming from our members of the public.”