POLICE in Kitwe yesterday arrested 25 UPND cadres after a clash as the opposition members were on their way to celebrate Youth Day.

In a statement, Friday, police spokesperson Esther Katongo stated that the cadres defied police orders when they were told not to proceed to the Youth Day celebrations, a command which prompted them to retaliate and stone officers.

She stated that police, however, would not sit idle and watch lawlessness taking root as the country approached the August 12 general election.

“Today (Friday) in Kitwe of Copperbelt Province, as the Youth Day celebrations were on, police officers who were deployed to provide security spotted three Rosa buses carrying people clad in the UPND regalia heading to where the ceremony was being held whilst chanting party slogans. Police officers stopped them and advised the occupants not to proceed and they sped off in the direction of Shoprite. Officers followed and advised them to disperse and it was at that point that they charged towards police officers and began throwing stones at them. In the process, some officers sustained injuries among them one officer who had fallen down,” narrated Katongo.

“25 people have been apprehended and police are currently screening those arrested and an update will be given at an appropriate time. Investigations have continued with aim of apprehending all those that were involved. The Zambia Police will not sit idle and watch lawlessness taking its root. The fact that 2021 is the year of elections does not in any way imply that people should abrogate provisions of the law with impunity. Our goal is to preserve the peace currently prevailing in our country and that we shall do.”

But in an interview, UPND Copperbelt Province chairman Elisha Matambo said that the youths were actually headed to the UPND secretariat and were not attempting to cause violence.

He added that 31 UPND supporters were apprehended at the time, while four were released because they had babies.

“What happened was that youths were preparing themselves to go to the Kitwe secretariat in Nkana West. On their way going like they were stopped, I think they saw one of their friends being beaten by PF cadres. So, in the process they were trying to rescue their friends, that is when the police came and they started beating our youths. Those they have arrested were just coming in a bus on their way from Nkana East to the secretariat so they just turned the bus. So, they turned the bus and the entire bus went to the police station and they put them in cells. That is what I have been told by my district chairman,” Matambo explained.

“I understand they are 31 in number and they were some who had babies in there who they have released, I think four of them and they have charged them K50 (with) conduct likely to disturb peace. The others are in there even though my district chairman has been told to go back there and try to release them because this is their day. It is very unfortunate and we demand the unconditional release of our youths.”

Matambo said it was unfortunate that UPND cadres were being arrested while PF cadres continued to break the law with impunity.

“There are several PF youths all over Copperbelt, Luansyha they are there misbehaving all over, nobody has been arrested. We cannot continue to live like this, our youths have the right to celebrate their day. It is not the first time the police are arresting our youths for nothing. Even last year, they did the same in Chililabombwe. Our youths were in Chililabombwe and they went and arrested them. Some of them were even arrested from the office. So, we can’t go on like this, let the police be professional in the way they are treating us. Our youths cannot be treated like second-class citizens,” said Matambo.

“The same way they are treating PF, let them treat everyone like that. We are just appealing to the police command to release our youths because this is their day, they can’t be spending a night in the police when they are supposed to be celebrating! Those who have been arrested are very innocent people. They have not committed any offence. There is a youth who has been badly injured, he was beaten by both the PF and the police, I think that is not correct.”