INSPECTOR General of Police Kakoma Kanganja has warned that his officers will not hesitate to arrest people who will be found posting unverified results and statements on social media.

Speaking during a media briefing, Tuesday, Kanganja said 12,152 police officers had been deployed to man polling stations.

“Zambia will be holding its general elections on 12th August 2021. In this regard, the Zambia Police Service as a law enforcement agency stands ready to ensure that peace and order prevail before, during and after the election. As you may be aware, these elections will take place in all our 116 districts across the country. The districts have further been broken into 156 constituencies, 1,858 wards and 12,152 polling stations across the country. This has been done by the Electoral Commission of Zambia as a body mandated to manage elections and all stakeholders have been informed accordingly,” Kanganja said.

“The increase in the number of polling stations means that we shall be deploying a total of 12,152 police officers (one officer per polling station) to man the polling stations. Going by lessons learnt in the last general election, our numbers are not adequate to meet the international policing standard of one police officer to 250 people. Currently, our policing ratio stands at one officer to about 1000 members of the public. You may wish to recall that during the last general election, some unscrupulous criminally-minded political party cadres from a known political party took advantage of the situation and committed heinous crimes which had the potential to disrupt the electoral process. Apart from that, this year again we have already experienced pockets of political violence in some parts of the country leading to loss of lives and property.”

Kanganja cautioned that individuals with the tendency of posting unverified results and statements on social media risk being arrested.

‘’From past elections, it has been noticed that some people tend to alarm the nation by posting alarming and unverified statements on social media as well as posting unverified results. I am warning individuals and groupings with such tendencies that they risk being arrested once found. Police will closely work with ZICTA to ensure that such individuals are caged. I wish to reassure members of the public that their security is guaranteed hence they need to go and cast their vote without fear. Police and defence personnel will remain professional as they conduct their duties during this election. Do not disfranchise yourself, go and cast your vote,’’ he said.

Kanganja further warned that any party member who would be found campaigning after the deadline on Wednesday 18:00 hours would be arrested.

“Arising from the lessons learnt, the Zambia Police Service has sought reinforcement from other security agencies which include personnel from the correctional service, Immigration, Zambia Wildlife and the defence force. However, I wish to hasten in stating that this reinforcement, which has so far seen our military personnel conducting patrols alongside the police in our communities, is not in any way meant to scare away or intimidate members of the public. Instead, this is a proactive measure put in place to guarantee peace, order and the safety of our citizens and voters at polling stations,” he said.

“During the polling day, citizens will see unarmed Zambia Police Service officers and unarmed military personnel accredited by ECZ to maintain security within the 400 parameters of the polling stations to ensure that the electorate freely cast their votes without intimidation as well as avoid the disruption of the voting process. In the same vein, I wish to advise that, once the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) closes political campaign activities on Wednesday 11th August, 2021 at 18 00 hours, we expect total compliance by all political parties and their sympathisers. I, therefore, wish to remind all political parties that no political activities are expected to be undertaken beyond the announced deadline, as doing so would be a breach of the electoral code of conduct. My directive to police officers is that anyone who will be found conducting such activities should be arrested.”

Kanganja assured the electorate that there was adequate security to ensure safety during the voting process.

“To all the electorate, I wish to assure you that we have deployed adequate security to ensure that your security is guaranteed as you go out to vote. Hence go out there in huge numbers to exercise your democratic right of casting your vote to choose your leaders, do not be intimidated. Our efforts as Zambia Police Service have been complimented by military personnel deployed in communities through a directive given by his Excellency the President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander-in-Chief of the defence force, Edgar Chagwa Lungu,’’ he assured.

‘’As you may know, the main objective of the Zambia Police Service in this year’s elections will be to: maintain law and order; save life and property; uphold human rights. We believe that once these objectives are achieved, our elections will be credible, free and fair. As already explained above, I wish to re-emphasise that the presence of military personnel is not to intimidate people as being insinuated by some quarters of society but that this deployment is in the best interest of the electorate and members of the public at large.’’

Kanganja further directed the Police not to allow illegal gatherings in public places.

‘’The police service and the defence force are working towards a common goal in this election, that of ensuring that people cast their vote in a peaceful environment without any intimidation from anyone and ensuring that communities are kept safe during and after the election. I am warning those that could have had plans of causing mayhem during this period that they will not have it easy and they risk putting their lives at stake as officers will not treat any officer with kid gloves,’’ he said.

‘’My appeal to all peace-loving Zambians is that you work hand in hand with the Zambia Police Service and report all incidences of political malpractice and violence using toll-free lines, 9010 and 9011. I am directing all police officers to be vigilant, alert and firm but fair on the ground and use provisions of the law to deal with lawbreakers during this period. No person should be allowed to loiter at polling stations within the radius of 400 meters and no one should be seen in political regalia at polling stations. You should not allow illegal gatherings in public places. Deal with such groupings once spotted.”