POLICE in Mpika on Monday summoned Mpika Community Radio management for featuring Democratic Party president Harry Kalaba on one of their programmes.

And Kalaba has lamented that freedom of association and assembly has reached its lowest in 2020.

In an interview, Mpika Radio station manager Allan Dumingu said his team was summoned for not getting permission from the police to host Kalaba.

Dumingu said the police further threatened to arrest them if they did not surrender a recording of the programme to the officers.

“Management was summoned, though I was out, but I was given a report that they were summoned yesterday (Monday). They were summoned by the officer in-charge. S, they went and they asked them why they hosted the programme without getting permission from the police. So they said they consulted the DC and the DC gave them a go ahead. The police said ‘the DC did not have any authority to give permission, it is the police who are supposed to give permission’. So when the guys from management called me, they were asked to submit the recording for the same programme. So when they tried to resist a bit, they were told that they would be locked up for five days if they didn’t submit the audio. So that is how they were taken to the station and they gave out the audio to the police,” Dumingu said.

“They gave them the flash and told them that every time they have a political programme hosting any politician, whether it is from the PF or from the opposition, they are supposed to first get permission from the police on whether to have that programme or not. If they don’t do that, they will be just coming to grab the whole management team and lock us up. According to them, that is the new regulation. So I don’t know whether it is emanating from that MOU that was signed between IBA, MISA and the police on getting permission from the police. So I even intend to call MISA and get guidance because a lot of media stakeholders expressed concern on that MOU. According to media regulations, we are not supposed to get permission from the police to do any programming. So that is why we didn’t follow it up with IBA and MISA.”

Dumingu expressed concern that seeking permission from police would be disadvantageous to the opposition.

“Going forward, we see this being a big problem because this police department has really embraced that issue of media houses getting permission from them to do anything. Us every time we have someone from the ruling party, there is no problem, they can come anytime and any day without announcing, they go on air, their programme will run. Nobody will even follow up with us to say ‘why did you allow the Minister, the MP?’, they won’t. [But] somebody from the opposition, it will always be an issue. From our experience, whenever we want to host a political figure, when we go to the police which we have done in the past, they will always say ‘we don’t have man power, we can’t provide enough security, so don’t do the programme’,” said Dumingu.

And Kalaba lamented that freedom of association and assembly had been abused by PF.

“After I had left, it is when the police summoned the Mpika radio station staff and told them that they should be getting permits. Since when did people start getting permits from the police for going on radio? I would rate freedom of expression and association in 2020 to be two over 10, it has been very poor. Government has used the police to suppress the voices, government has used the police to silence the opposition’s intentions. The heavy hand of government has been felt left, right and centre. It has been very heavy. If this was how PF was being treated by MMD, it could have been very difficult to win elections in 2011,” Kalaba said.

“This is what happens to a regime that is losing power. They rely on the police because before long they were relying on cadres, they no longer have cadres because they have to pay them. The cadres in PF can’t do anything unless they are paid. So what do they do? They now turn to the police. The police have been now working under difficult circumstances in this year of 2020. It has been very difficult for them. Their cadres have taken over. I can only tell our people to remain steadfast because change is coming and that new dawn of leadership is at hand.”

Kalaba said the country had seen an increase of “mediocrity” under PF.

“The DP can never be discouraged because our resolve is clear, we know what we want to achieve. So we can never be discouraged, we can never be intimidated, we are beyond that. We are telling the PF government that it is a good attempt they are making by trying to frighten some of us, but it can only end at that. It can’t succeed! Whether they increase or the remain constant, that is inconsequential, the truth of the matter is that the people of Zambia are kicking out PF. We don’t need mediocrity, we have never seen mediocrity of such nature. We are all scratching our heads where did they borrow this level of mediocrity? Because even in the books in terms of mediocrity levels, this level is not appearing. So we are at our lowest, never have we been at our lowest like this. We are a laughing stock because we have a leadership that doesn’t know whether it is coming or going,” said Kalaba.