PRINCE Akashambatwa Mbikusita Lewanika says the ongoing restriction of opposition political parties in Zambia to freely mobilise is a manifestation of systemic oppression and suppression, which needs to be stopped.

Commenting on the police’s arbitrary arrest of five UPND members for unlawful assembly last week, Akashambatwa bemoaned the State’s failure to decriminalise political offences.

“This a is a symptomatic continuing manifestation of political oppression and suppression. This has characterised Zambian governance from the beginning of UNIP rule in 1964. It was consolidated under the One-Party State. It continued even after 1991 reintroduction of multiparty constitution as amended in 1990, 1996 and 2016. This is a failure to decriminalise politics, end State capture by ruling parties and move away from one-man personalised party and State leadership. Therefore, I call for decriminalising politics, freeing of all political prisoners, ending of and police State governance and holding police leadership accountable for every instance of police brutality. It is in this context of decriminalisation of politics that I call for decriminalisation of all political campaigns, decriminalisation of all expressions of opinions and aspirations over the status and future of Barotseland, freeing of Afumba and all Barotse political prisoners so that they do not suffer another Christmas at Mukobeko prison,” said Akashambatwa.

Last week, police in Muchinga Province arrested five UPND members for unlawful assembly after a report from a concerned citizen.

According to Muchinga Province Police Commissioner Joel Njase, the five were arrested, Saturday, after Chama Police Station received a report from a concerned member of the public, who said there was unlawful assembly organised by some suspected members of UPND in Chabala village, chief Kambombo in Chama District.

Njase narrated that around 11.00 hours on December 12, two UPND members, namely Laston Nyirenda, aged 57, and Raphael Phiri, aged 60, both of Chipata District in Eastern Province went to Chama District where they organised a meeting in Chabala village, chief Kambombo, in Chama District without notifying the police after which a team of police officers rushed to Chabala village and managed to apprehend the two suspects and three other UPND members, who were at the said meeting.

The suspects were detained at Chama Police Station for further investigations and a UPND branded Toyota Mark II Registration number AAX 2193, which was being used by the suspects was impounded and parked at Chama Police station.

In a separate incident in October, this year, police in Chingola apprehended 27 UPND cadres of unlawful assembly during Independence Day celebrations.

In an interview, Copperbelt police commissioner Charity Katanga had said that 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 others.