HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has directed police to stop arresting or collecting the K750 fine on people found without face masks in public.

Speaking during the daily COVID-19 briefing, Tuesday, Kampyongo warned that officers found wanting would be dealt with as it was not within their power to convict and charge erring citizens.

“I know that of late, we have had some complaints coming from the members of the public in the manner some of our police officers have interpreted the statutory instrument. We are aware that in the statutory instrument, there is a provision which talks about the punitive kind of measures that should be taken by those who are contravening SI and the directives given by His Excellency the President. And I will quote section 14 of the SI, ‘a person who fails to comply with a direction, prohibition or restriction of an authorised officer or otherwise contravenes these regulations commits an offense and is liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding 2,500 penalty units or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months or to both’. Now, the enforcement and interpretation of this section is certainly not with the police. The interpretation of this section is to be done by the courts of law so that’s why they are saying conviction. Police Service does not convict, police arrests suspects who are then subjected to the due process of the courts and as they are saying, upon conviction,” he said.

“Now, regrettably, we have had some officers in certain areas who have taken it upon themselves to collect admission of guilt fees from members of the public and I want to make a clarion call just as the police commander has already done, honorable minister, to all our command structures that this matter must be dealt with immediately. And so, what that means, I have here the communication from the police command to all commissioners of police in the divisions, all the 10 divisions that we have, in which this matter has been brought to the attention and guidance has been provided and in this guidance, the police command is directing all the police commissioners to monitor the implementation of the presidential directives and enforcement of the SI 22 in their respective provinces and ensure that the enforcement is carried out within the framework of the law. Officers are hereby restrained from arresting and charging fines to members of the public not wearing masks but instead they should be able to warn and sensitize violators to minimize the risk of the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and so the role of police is to, like any other stakeholders, sensitise people and make them comply only when they feel it’s necessary should they effect arrests, which arrest must be also taken to court.”

He further warned that officers found wanting would be disciplined.

“Just to make it abundantly clear, no police officer will be tolerated for collecting money as admission of guilt for people who are not masking up, it’s not your duty, it’s not your role and so anyone who will be found wanting, the DIG admin is here, you will end up being disciplined,” he warned.

Kampyongo said it was unfortunate that citizens had to be policed in order for them to follow guidelines that were in their best interests.

“But I also want to emphasise that members of the public, like we have said, the responsibility to look after yourselves starts with yourselves. The minister has given us where we stand in terms of numbers and what we have lost and those who are still in hospital recovering, we would want to see these numbers go down so that we can go back to our normal way of living. We don’t expect that you can only listen when we use minimum force. You know that to get on a minibus, all of you transporters of public transport must make it a point. For example, before someone jumps on a bus, yes it’s all about making money but you can’t make money while risking the lives of the people who are supposed to give you money. So it’s not too much to ask of you, just to ensure that when people are jumping on your buses you make sure that they mask up. It’s the same for those of you who are shop owners, shopping malls, that you just come on board and make sure that people are made to ensure that they mask up when they are in public,” said Kampyongo.

“Yes indeed, we have been collaborating with the ministry as well to just ensure that the enforcement of some of the measures that we have prescribed for our people are adhered to and this is for the interest of our citizens because the responsibility of our people’s health begins with them and it’s just unfortunate that we have to enforce, we have to force, we have to use minimum force to just get people to appreciate that their health is very important.”