Police in Lusaka have detained UPND member Anthony Bwalya on an unknown charge but have released party secretary general Stephen Katuka after questioning at Police headquarters.

According to Lusaka lawyer Mulambo Haimbe, Bwalya has been detained but his charge and holding place remain unknown.

“With regard to Mr Katuka, there was an interview that was undertaken and the police said they would request him to come back if they required more information. As for Mr Bwalya, he has been detained in custody, we have not been told what the alleged offense he committed is, we have not been told which detention facility he will be taken to ultimately because at service headquarters there are no cells. All I can say as at now is that the police are claiming to be conducting some investigation of one sort or the relating, I believe, to the issue of national registration cards that was spoken of by Mr Bwalya and Mr Mubita Nawa on television about two, three, four days ago or so,” said Haimbe, adding that the matter seemed to be a political issue which was being used for purposes of criminal persecution.

By press time, there was still no update on Bwalya’s whereabouts and police had not yet confirmed his arrest.

Around midday, Tuesday, police surrounded the UPND secretariat in Lusaka’s Rhodespark area where they had a warrant to search the premises for “piles of national registration cards”.

According to lawyer Marshal Muchende, who witnessed the search, police did not find what they were looking for but ended up leaving with inconsequential documents from a party sympathiser.

“The search warrant was saying that they have reasons to believe that there are piles and piles of national registration cards at the UPND secretariat, that’s what the search warrant was saying and that they had permission therefore of the court to search the premises of the UPND secretariat for those suspected national registration cards and other documents. So my duty as counsel was to just verify as to whether the police were above board in executing that search and that is to say, do they have the relevant documents to allow them to infringe upon the constitutional right of privacy for the UPND and yes they did have that document and I took it a bit further as to confirm from court and I verified that the search warrant was authentic and was signed by Magistrate Judy Chiyaika. It was upon being satisfied that the document was authentic that I authorised them to conduct the search,” Muchende said.

“I allowed them in the premises and they did look for what they were looking for. The end of it was that they did not come across any NRCs whatsoever, they did not come across the principle material that they were looking for, and however, they started fishing. They went on a voyage of a witch hunt to start looking for documents that had nothing to do with NRCs and that is how they stumbled across certain documents by sympathetic members of the party who were advising the secretariat on how to protect the vote. The member of the public was saying that the biggest problem was that the vote was stolen, so the person was making recommendations on how to ensure that the votes are protected but the document itself was obsolete because it was in relation to 2011 and 2016 elections. So in as far as I was concerned, it was inconsequential and I advised my clients to allow the police to get it because there was nothing criminal about the document.”

He added that after the search was done, youths at the secretariat became agitated with the police and snatched the documents from him despite letting them know that the documents were inconsequential.

“So however, the youths were agitated, they were not happy, they took it that police are an extension of the PF and whatever was going on was essentially a victimisation and intimidation of the opposition political party to the extent that when we were addressing the youths about the whole search, they actually pounced on me and grabbed those so called irrelevant documents, they were really irrelevant but they grabbed them away from counsel and they ran away so police were now on a man hunt looking for those youths that snatched the documents from my hands. That’s the full report of what happened,” said Muchende.

“So the police arrived at the scene at 12:00 o clock but they waited for counsel to give them green light until 14:30. So the search started in earnest at 14:30 and ended at 16:30. Then 16:00 hours it was a meeting now for signing off the documents that were received. Around 16:30 that’s the time we were addressing the youths so that they don’t lose cool, assuring them that there is nothing to worry about but really I don’t think that message sunk in them because they perceived the police as an extension of the hand of the PF party, they are not seeing the difference between the party and the police.”

By press time, police could not confirm the findings of the search but disclosed that Bwalya’s house was also earmarked for a search.