POLICE have arrested and detained Choma Mayor Javan Simoloka and his Mazabuka counterpart Vincent Lilanda over the alleged abduction of Perunah and Miltone Hatembo.

In January this year, the Lusaka High Court threw out a case in which the Hatembos were challenging UPND president Hakainde Hichilema’s acquisition and possession of a farm in Kalomo District.

The dual was however reported missing recently, leading police into an operation which has resulted in the arrest of the Choma Mayor and his Mazabuka counterpart.

Confirming the development, lawyer representing the two mayors Corneilas Mweetwa narrated that cops were holding the two mayors for further interrogation, adding that UPND member Ackson Sejani and another UPND member were also arrested on Sunday on the same matter.

“We have been in here for 10 hours over the detention of Honourable Ackson Senjani and another who were detained yesterday (Sunday) on the allegations that they abducted Hatembo. That is what the allegation is and today (Monday) they have also added the Mayor for Choma Javan Simoloka and the Mayor for Mazabuka, Mr Vincent Lilanda. They are all held up here for interviews, investigations, and thus far, they have administered a warn and caution statement to a Mr Malambo, who was detained yesterday with Honourable Senjani. Once they concluded administering that warn and caution statement they told him that police were investigating the abduction of Peruna and Miltone Hantembo and that he was named to be one of the people who were suspects in the same. They asked, and he denied the charge, so they didn’t particularly charge him in terms of a particular section of the penal code, they just said police are carrying out investigations and so he said, ‘I deny the allegations,’ and they ended there and they said, ‘no, we are now breaking off for lunch’,” Mweetwa told journalist in Lusaka at Central Police station, Monday.

“For the mayors, they have conducted the preliminary interviews and I was there with my colleague Clement Ndeleki who is also counsel. So, this is what is happening, currently. We wait to see how it is going to proceed so that we can give a full account to the media of what is going on. Right now, they have not been charged with any offence so we are not specific to the issue, really, why they are bringing all these people. But they have stated that it is in line with the Perunah and Miltone Hatembo over the issue of HH’s farms, which was dismissed by the courts, it is in public domain. Those people held a press briefing on Thursday 4th March in Choma after reporting themselves to police. Then, they held a briefing and they reported themselves to Macha Police. They held a briefing where they were streaming live, they were also live on some radio stations. Thereafter, the police started arresting these people to say that, ‘they are the organisers of that briefing, therefore, they are the ones who know where these people are’.”

Mweetwa, who is also Choma Central UPND member of parliament, said as the country was still dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic, it was important for police not to detain people on speculation.

“So, this is where we are, we do hope that there will be finalities within the day to (conclude) these matters so that the wheels of justice can begin to move. We just hope that the police will act quickly because the law has no provision for the police to hold people for purposes of investigations. They don’t have that luxury! We are also aware that within 48 hours, they must be able to take these people to court. If they are unable to come up with a particular charge or if they can’t give police bond, the law requires that in any event within 48 hours, those people must be produced before the courts of law,” said Mweetwa.

“So, as things stand, we are very hopeful that we will make progress, but we are dealing with police and on matters like this that are politically-connected, sometimes you may fault police when in fact police are not the ones to blame. We know that sometimes politicians get to interfere with the professionalism of various civil service actors. I am not saying that this is what is happening. We are in COVID times and these COVID times to hold people over offences or allegations for which you know that this is not correct, but you are pursuing political ends is not fair because you may end up having people contracting COVID in those congested cells where people are being bundled.”