POLICE spokesperson Esther Katongo says 15 people have been arrested in connection with the looting and disturbances which occurred in Lusaka and Copperbelt Provinces.
And President-elect Hakainde Hichilema has reiterated that individuals wishing to take part in illegal acts; including the destruction of property must immediately stop or will be dealt with by the law.
Meanwhile, Hichilema has urged outgoing President Edgar Lungu to ensure that law and order is maintained to the fullest extent during the transition period.
In viral videos, some criminals taking advantage of the change of government Lusaka were seen beating up people in markets and bus stations, while some shops on the Copperbelt and in Lusaka were looted. In another video, the cadres were seen manhandling a police officer.
In an interview, Katongo disclosed that 11 people were arrested on the Copperbelt and four in Lusaka.
“On the Copperbelt, we have 11 that we arrested in connection with the same disturbances and in Lusaka we have four, so these are still being screened. We have not yet connected them to the breaking of buildings because some of them have their own allegations however the matters are still being investigated. But we have 15 in custody in connection with the disturbance. The situation is calming down because our officers are still on the ground. Those that will be found acting contrary to the provisions of the law will be arrested,” Katongo said.
“We have seen some disturbing videos which are circulating but most of them happened the day the presidential winner was announced. That is when a lot of cadres misbehaved. We have information that other criminals want to take advantage of the situation. Of course, there are cadres putting on the regalia of UPND who have been causing violence in communities, others have reached an extent of going to attack those that were perceived to be their enemies but most of these videos were captured when there was a declaration. But at the moment we have seen a reduction in the numbers of people complaining. Even if we still have certain happenings on the ground, they are still cases and our offices will continue being on the ground.”
When asked if the people committing the said offences were UPND cadres, Katongo said it was difficult to identify because some criminals took advantage of the situation.
“It is difficult to identify because people are changing camps now. And even a criminal who has never been in politics once they see that there is an opportunity to commit offences, they will go and get a t-shirt and put it on. So all those who are doing that are criminals,” she said.
Katongo urged police officers to be firm and not to be intimidated by anyone.
“We have also seen a disturbing video of an officer being harassed. People need to know that the law is still in effect and as everyone conducts the activities they are conducting whether it is celebrations, they need to celebrate within the provision of the law and not going to cause fear in other members of the public. Our officers should be firm on the ground; they don’t need to be intimidated, let them ensure that law and order prevails,” said Katongo.
And in a statement on his official Facebook Page, Hichilema said those who were taking part in illegal acts should be dealt with immediately.
“We wish to restate our position and be categorically clear that those wishing to take part in illegal acts; including the destruction of public and private property, must immediately stop or be dealt with by the law. As we take office, we will not allow crime to be committed under the guise of celebrating an election victory, nor will we accept disruption to our peaceful transition by a small group of troublemakers. As outgoing Republican President and Commander-in-Chief, it is still incumbent upon President Edgar Lungu during this transition period, to ensure that law and order is maintained to the fullest extent, and we urge him to do so,” stated Hichilema.
Meanwhile, speaking during a press briefing, Tuesday, UPND spokesperson Cornelius Mweetwa said people involved in the looting had no blessings from his party.
“We want to state that the looting that has taken place in Matero and other parts of the country is regrettable. Anybody who is doing that has no blessings from the UPND Alliance leadership. They are doing it on their own and it is a criminal activity for which we reiterate our call to the law enforcement agencies to move in. The idea of someone putting on party regalia and begin to harass the police is not to be tolerated. The police act according to law and we are aware that some elements who were doing wrong things under the Patriotic Front are the first ones now running to acquire UPND party regalia to continue their misconduct,” said Mweetwa.
“So we are asking the police to please move in. We are not yet in government for us to take decisive action. There is still a government in place but we know the history. We are asking the police to come in and protect life, liberties of citizens and also protect properties. So to all those who are involved, I want you to know that the UPND legal team has no time to represent people who were told not to engage in criminal activities. You want to take advantage of the transition in order to commit criminal activities. Police must act, that is our appeal to them. The time for police to accept a cadre just because they are wearing party regalia is over.”