POLICE in Chingola on Saturday arrested 27 UPND cadres of unlawful assembly during Independence Day celebrations.

In an interview, Copperbelt police commissioner Charity Katanga said the 27 were arrested around 12:30 because they were marching with some placards written “vote for UPND and NDC for change”,
“COVID-19 only applies to the opposition” and “stop police brutality”, among other things.

“We had a case of unlawful assembly yesterday, this happened in town around 12:30 hours where 27 UPND cadres unlawfully assembled. This happened at Chingola Town Centre and others were along the freedom statue in Chingola and were found marching with placards written ‘vote for UPND and NDC for change’, ‘COVID-19 only applies to the opposition’, ‘stop police brutality’, ‘release CK’. Those arrested are 27 and they are detained for unlawful assembly, 11 women and 15 men,” Katanga said.

“It is unfortunate that such a day like this one, they had a different agenda. Whilst the participants were welcome, we are not going to allow people to flout laws whether it is Independence Day or not. They are expected to abide by the Public Order Act. If they had wanted to march, they would have notified the police. So it is clear, it was not about participating in the independence celebrations but they just decided to flout the laws and they met justice. So we are going to ensure that they all appear in court and face the wrath of the law. We are not going to tolerate lawlessness in Chingola and other parts of the Copperbelt.”

Katanga said it was disappointing that Ndola and Luanshya UPND cadres also tried to flout laws during Independence Day celebrations.

“It is strange and probably I think this was well coordinated because in Ndola they indicated that they will participate in the independence celebrations, then alas they went late. After they went late and joined, others had similar placards written in the same words. So police in Ndola confiscated placards written ‘abash police brutality’, ‘end police brutality’, ‘work on the economy’, ‘stop dictatorial tendencies’. In Luanshya they went to participate, the NDC and the UPND, they wanted to march as well because there was marching that was taking place, they wanted to march but now they were late and others had some placards. So that prevented them from doing that,” Katanga said.

“In Chililabombwe, they were warned that if you wanted to participate, they should ensure that law and order prevailed. So they participated in Chililabombwe in compliance with the law just like the Patriotic Front and the NDC. So in Chililabombwe, it was incident free and no one was arrested.”

Katanga said it was unlawful for UPND not to notify the police of their assembly.

“A person has a right to belong to any political party of his choice but we are not going to allow them to break the law at will. We are going to ensure that the law visits them whenever they invite it. So like in Chingola, I am warning Chingola UPND cadres there that they follow the law or else all of them will find themselves behind bars, simple! You notify the police, you have met the conditions, then you hold your meeting. I don’t know why they should go to greater length and you can see now the number of people that are apprehended and others are appearing in court,” Katanga said.

“So we don’t want anyone to cry foul, when they don’t want to follow the law. So we are warning them even in other parts of the Copperbelt, I will not tolerate people who just want to…if the ruling party is notifying the police that they intend to hold meetings what more members of the opposition? I advised all the political parties that to avoid confusion and issues of saying ‘no the ruling party are doing what they want’, we called all the parties and advised them to notify the police when they want to hold these meetings. I think that we have petitioned and we have been doing that, but these ones want to break the law they will face my wrath.”

Katanga said she had noted with concern that members of the opposition had continued to hold meetings without notifying police.

“So, I strongly warn all those that want to do assemblies to follow the law. We have noted with concern that members of the opposition parties sometimes just want to hold meetings, when they are apprehended they say the police are not good. I don’t know what is difficult about them notifying the police, so that they have a record to point to that on such a day they notified the police and this is what happened but they don’t even have a record to show. But each time they are apprehended, they run to the media,” Katanga said.

Meanwhile, Katanga said 28 boys and girls were arrested in Chililabombwe for unruly behavior and alcohol abuse.

“And in Chililabombwe, 28 boys and girls were apprehended for unruly behavior. These did not belong to any political party. They are charged for conduct likely to cause breach of the peace 15 boys and 13 girls. They are detained in custody, they were found abusing alcohol at Kabuswe Park in Chililabombwe. People are expected to act responsible at all times,” said Katanga.

But Copperbelt Province UPND chairperson Elisha Matambo said it was unfortunate his party members were arrested when police was notified about the UPND’s intention to open an office in Chingola.

“We were supposed to open a new office yesterday (Saturday) in Chingola Central Constituency and my officials had even notified the police, they were even given a go ahead to open that new office. It is an office for the constituency of Chingola. When you are opening an office, you don’t just open, it is like a ceremony which the police were aware about. They were putting on regalia of course because they were also geared for the independence celebrations, because we communicated to the officials very late that the marching was cancelled,” Matambo said.

“So they were on the way going to the official ceremony of the opening of the office. What I have heard is that the police worked under the influence of somebody, because I understand that Davies Mwila was in Chingola. They were just ordered to arrest our people. My appeal to the police is that when there are issues, better they engage us, we are not chickens where the owner of chickens can just go and arrest any how.”

Matambo said it was disheartening that the police arrested UPND officials whenever they held meetings while PF officials are left to hold meetings freely.

“We have never witnessed any arrest of PF, they have meetings at their will, they have processions at their will, they protest at their will without even notifying the police. What type of professionalism is this? We are appealing to the police command to be professional. My appeal to the police is to release my officials because there is nothing wrong they committed. They did not commit any offence, we were in the process of opening an office. They arrested anyone they found putting on a UPND regalia,” said Matambo.

“In the past, they have been accusing us of not participating in the independence celebrations, last time we wanted to participate, it was our women who were battered and some of them undressed. This time around, we wanted to show that we are on the ground and we are in good numbers, again they arrested our people. This is the only country we have and we should not have two sets of laws. When PF wants to celebrate, they are free. When they want to have a rally, they don’t even apply. How many rallies have they had on the Copperbelt? They have been having rallies all over. We have been applying for rallies but look at PF, they would have rallies at their will, they will have meetings at their will without any harassment. So the arrest of yesterday wasn’t fair especially the police knew that we were in the process of opening an office.”