HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says he is not happy with the happenings in the Zambia Police Service where provisions of the Statutory Instrument Number 22 on enforcement of COVID-19 regulations were misinterpreted.

And Kampyongo has accused Civil Society Organisations raising concerns about the monitoring of the mobile issuance of National Registration Cards are just doing so to get funding from donors.

Speaking when he featured on Diamond TV’s Diamond Live program, Tuesday, Kampyongo said the fact that the issue of police collecting K750 from the people is being discussed means there is a problem.

“If I was happy, we couldn’t be discussing the issue of K750…So the fact that we are talking about it means there is a problem,” Kampyongo said.

He added that given that the COVID-19 pandemic was a new phenomenon, mistakes were bound to be made.

“This is a pandemic which has hit us from nowhere so you expect that there will be these issues coming up because no one was ready for it, no one was prepared for it. So in enforcing preventive measures, obviously there will be misunderstandings of the measures themselves. So it’s expected that mistakes could be made, misinterpretations could be made and so that’s why we are there to provide guidance. So what you are referring to is the issue of our officers collecting something in the form admission of guilt fees, but you see, every fee that you collect must be backed by law and I know that officers were relying on the regulations of SI 22 which also stipulates penalties for non-compliance and people that are found non-compliant. But unfortunately, for us as legislators, when we are formulating these pieces of legislation for interpretation, we must have a rationale behind what we are crafting and so in those regulations, the 2,500 penalties which has now become famous is applicable to someone who is convicted, it’s upon conviction,” Kampyongo clarified.

“And there are two options, either you pay a fine or serve a term not less than six months or both upon conviction. And so, it could have been some misinterpretation to some extent because the only institution which has got the jurisdiction to convict is the court. So meaning, the police should arrest you for not masking up and take you to court and tried. Upon conviction, that’s when those units are applicable.”

He, however, noted that the provision to arrest those found wanting was still in the SI 22 and warned the public against daring the police.

“What we don’t expect is when you hear that no, people won’t be paying the K750 and therefore I will move still dare the police to say ‘look, what can you do because you are not going to make me pay K750?’ That shouldn’t be the spirit. I think our citizens must take this pronouncement. What we are saying is that the police will start to be monitoring, participating in sensitisation and if it comes to the worst, if the lack of compliance comes to the worst and we see that many people have opted to continue putting other people’s lives at risk, they will have no option but to effect some arrests in some cases,” Kampyongo added.

“Look, I must make it very clear that the provision [for arrests] is still there and police can still arrest people and take to court for contravening the regulations but what should be helpful, it’s not about interpretation, the legal minds, we the law makers and what not, explaining this, there is a risk which is a reality. What should we all be doing collectively? You the media who are disseminating information to the public, what role should you play, what is the role of the citizens who are at risk? Because, I don’t want you to be reckless and put me at risk. So should I start kicking you and chasing you myself? The answer is no. The reason why we have got these law enforcers is to make sure that they [protect] your rights just as they [protect] mine. And that’s how it works.”

And the Minister said the issuance of NRCs is the mandate of the ministry and is conducted without being monitored and those crying about it were just doing so for funding.

“We have got CSOs now that are out there making noise to try and get money to justify sourcing for money from donors to do certain things. First of all, you must understand this exercise before we even talk of stakeholders. What is this exercise all about? First of all, the mandate to identify citizens, which the Ministry of Home Affairs executes through the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship, is provided for in the document of the land, the Constitution under part four. This is a mandate that is performed by this department under the Ministry of Home Affairs on a daily basis from Monday to Friday,” said Kampyongo.

“I was asking you deliberately those questions so that you understand because you are a Zambian and you went through a process and when you went through the process, that same process you went through is what everyone that is being registered now is going through. The difference between the permanent offices and the mobile registration exercise we do is to give an opportunity to people, especially for us who represent rural people who might not have chance to move the longest distance from the village of Kabanda to go to Chinsali where the office is, covering 90 kilometers plus. Some of the people, because of this challenge of distance, have lived beyond the mandatory age of 16…for one to be registered. So what this exercise does is to give an opportunity because sometimes, people live beyond the age, and start even having their other children without being registered as citizens and they only realize the challenge of living like that when they want to access certain government services.”