POLICE spokesperson Esther Katongo says Hakainde Hichilema’s convoy was stopped on the Copperbelt because it attracted crowds which disregarded COVID-19 preventive measures.
Speaking when she featured on Phoenix FM’s “Let The People Talk” programme, Tuesday, Katongo said officers on the ground determined that there was no observance of COVID-19 guidelines as the vehicles attracted a lot of people.
“What happened was a disregard to instructions given by police. Because we have heard in most instances where police say something, the political parties would dare that and say us we will do the way we want to do. Crowds are determined by officers on the ground. To say this is huge, here you cannot observe the social distancing, you cannot observe other regulations when it comes to regulations to do with Covid-19. So it is entirely upto the officers on the ground,” Katongo said.
“We are looking at motor vehicles that are going to be involved in a procession. If you allow a lot of vehicles in a procession it means that you are allowing a lot of people coming to watch what is happening. So all those are determined by police officers who are on the ground. In Kabwe, there was a spontaneous crowd there which just gathered to see the opposition leader and as the police they made an assessment and they let it to be. Officers did not react because it was not his (Hichilema’s) wish that those people had come to see him.”
Katongo added that the police had been allowing political parties to hold illegal campaign proceedings.
She however stated that this came with an exception of conducting an assessment to weigh the implications.
“We do not use emotions. So ngamulefwaya ukutumwenamo, mutumwenemofye. It has happened, we have allowed that. So yes we have done that, if you are disappointed, then it is up to you. If we see that implications are mild or they may not be serious in the break down of the rule of law, we allow something to proceed like that. Even when there were nominations we did that. We allowed some illegal processions, we allowed them to go ahead. And that was after making an assessment. As an institution, we have allowed such,” she said.
“When it comes to criminal activities, us as police say an arrest is not always necessary. Sometimes we do advise, we look at the nature of the act or activity, or a wrong doing that has happened. If it is something where it is not necessary to effect an arrest, we do not arrest, we guide. We give guidance. More so with these campaigns if we say everyone that has abrogated the law will be in custody, a lot of people are going to be in custody,”
Meanwhile, Katongo explained that former police officer Sergeant Jeyson Chipepo was arrested because he did not notify the police that he was going to conduct a lone protest.
“When you look at the law, picketing is an offence. It is just as good as protesting. So it is not an offence but when it is done illegally, it is an offence. But picketing, if you notified the police, to say this is what is going to happen. So if you want to picket, if you want to protest, it still goes to the Public Order Act. It is an activity which is conducted in a public place and it has to be done orderly. He [Jeyson Chipepo] was just seen on the street,” Katongo said.
Katongo further admitted that the police were not doing enough sensitisation in markets with regards to enforcing COVID-19 guidelines.
“The issue of markets, I think that one, the leading institution is the local government. We do not police markets ourselves. So if there are measures that have been put in place let those measures be pronounced by local government. I will talk about bars. With bars we have always been working hand in hand with the local authorities when it comes to their operations,” said Katongo.
“But I think we have not done much and we need to do more as that team engaged with such. Because when it comes to operating hours of bars , it still stands on what was last pronounced by his excellency the President where he said ‘bars will only operate from Friday to Sunday,”