HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says the pursuit of gassing mastermind has not died a natural death, but that the COVID-19 pandemic slowed the hearing of court cases.

And Kampyongo says authorities could not allow youths to hold their protest because it is not safe for people to be on the streets amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking when he featured on Sun FM Radio in Ndola, Sunday, Kampyongo said his Ministry would engage the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA) on the status of the cases of gassing cases.

“Yes, indeed, those [gassing] activities did torment our people and got our people to live in fear. But like I assured when I came here that we were going to make sure that those activities were halted and that the perpetrators, who were going to be found wanting, were going to be made to face the law, so I must commend the police: the Inspector General of Police (Kakoma Kanganja) and his two deputy commissioners. The police command here on the Copperbelt did what they could and they made sure that some perpetrators were arrested. The way it works is that, they do their part in terms of arrests and make sure that they prepare the dockets, which are then forwarded to the National Prosecutions Authority (NPA), which is an institution which prosecutes these matters through the courts of law,” Kampyongo said.

“As far as I know, most of these matters have been handed over to the NPA. But what you also need to know is that just as they were about to start getting these matters to the courts of law, that’s when COVID-19 came around and that saw the suspension of many activities, including the Judiciary. The courts were suspended and it’s only now, I think last week, when the courts were opened. So, we shall get in touch the National Prosecutions Authority to just get updated so that we can also keep the people informed. But people should not think that these matters have died a natural death, these are matters that have been forwarded. The police did their part and they have various suspects. We also have suspects that were rounded up for meting out instance justice on suspected citizens of being gassers. So these are the activities that you will certainly get to see through the courts of law because the police aren’t the end unto themselves. So, our people should just be patient, they will be informed.”

He also called on police to remain alert.

“I want to also urge the police to remain alert, even as things seem to be peaceful now. I am happy that the people of Chingola are able to give us feedback that they are now living normal lives; in Chililabombwe and all the surrounding towns of the Copperbelt, it seems life has gotten (back) to normal. But also to the citizens, securing ourselves is not only a matter for police, it is our duty as citizens to ensure that where we see suspicions, we inform the police so that, quickly, before these activities start escalating, they are dealt with, that’s the role of members of the public.”

And Kampyongo explained why youths were not given a go-ahead.

“Protesting is not illegal per se, but it’s how you want to protest. There must be an intention and you must want to achieve something. You must be saying, ‘we want to engage this particular authority so that we can be heard as youths and this is what we want to achieve at the end of the day and there can be engagement from there. But at the moment, we are still enforcing the measures that were given for us to stop this COVID-19 from spreading like bush fire. Yes, indeed, it would look as if the lives we have lost are few as compared to other countries where they have lost large numbers of people. But that should not make people relax and make us go to sleep and get to business as usual as if this COVID-19 is no longer there. So, we have SI (Statutory Instrument) 22, which has to go with the Public Order Act and these are the two pieces of legislation that are there to manage any kind of gathering, procession or, indeed, any activity that will draw the excess numbers of people,” said Kampyongo.

“You know, even as we speak, now that churches have only started congregating while observing social distancing and other measures that go to enhance hygiene, some churches have just opted to wait until they are sure that all is well. The schools have had to open in a phased approach. Surely, what would be much more important between sending children back to school or getting people to be on the streets? I think those who want to get into power should just repackage themselves and prepare for elections. To try and use children as a front for a political agenda is shameful; it’s not only unlawful, but shameful because if you can’t take your child to be on the streets, why should you get someone else’s child to be on the streets? I was just saying that we have suspended certain economic activities in order to see how this COVID-19 plays out. So, if this is about politics let’s wait, elections are coming next year where people will have chance to choose who they want to be in leadership. So, our youths who want to go on the streets should understand that it is not right at the moment because such activities have been halted at the moment.”