EFF president Kasonde Mwenda says Police arrested and charged him for conduct likely to cause breach of peace, contrary to their claims that they only protected him from being beaten.
On Monday, Copperbelt deputy police commissioner Crispin Chambwa refuted reports that police arrested the Economic Freedom Fighters leader for staging a protest on the free education campaign promise.
He said police had merely picked him up with a view of safeguarding his life after receiving a report that some members of the public had planned to harass him.
But in an interview, Mwenda said he was arrested and later taken to the police cells where he spent the entire Monday afternoon.
“We were arrested, it did not even take time from the time they whisked us from there. They said ‘we are charging you with conduct likely to breach peace’, within 20 minutes they took us in the cell, we removed our shoes and they got our belongings and put us in the cells. Later, I think that had been after two hours, they brought us out to do some statements, to see whether we wanted to be taken to court and we said in the affirmative that ‘we want to go to court because we deny the charge’. They have signed documents there at the police, even the entry book into the police they are there,” Mwenda said.
“We even applied for bond that was around 16, we thought everything was going to be alright, we are going to come out, then they took us back into cells. We went there twice; we were locked up again. Then later in the evening they just quickly came and removed us quickly, I don’t know what was happening, then they gave [us] those admission of guilt forms. So, we haven’t even been given fresh instructions whether we are still going to court, because we denied the charge. We know the provisions of the law, what we were doing was not an assembly, it was not even a procession, it was just me standing with my secretary general, we held a placard, we were not disturbing any peace and we were not even walking around, we were just standing. There was no gathering anywhere.”
Mwenda said contrary to the police commissioner’s remarks, no one wanted to harass him.
“Why would people harass us, we are Kitwe people, we were not doing anything wrong. People were supporting and taking pictures. People are trying to spin things out of context, what we were advocating for even had a question mark, we were only saying ‘when is free education from primary to secondary school coming?’ . We even wrote it down because we didn’t want to be misunderstood. We know that the elections are just not long ago but we are asking just for a road map, when is this coming? We didn’t say bring it or something? The President has a duty to let people know what he is doing, how will he get advice if he doesn’t tell people what he is doing,” he said.
“When he tells us his road map then we will sell it to the people. So, we are trying to bring a culture of leaders that talk. Actually, we shouldn’t have even asked the question, he should have come out already. It started with ‘when’ and ended up with a question mark. So I don’t know how that becomes a worry. Besides, when do you ask a question when someone has made a mistake or when someone is about to start a process? We are not waiting for him to make mistakes, we don’t want him to make mistakes, we want him to do the right thing because we have Zambians living in poverty and they should come out of that poverty and education is an equalizer. So why should we wait for him to default? “
Mwenda called on the UPND government to amend the Public Order Act as per their promise.
“The UPND categorically, the President Hakainde Hichilema promised saying ‘no. the public order act is archaic, it is against the law’, and they so efficiently used it against us. They were so swift to use it against us, the instrument they promised they will change. From the time they got into office they haven’t categorically come out strong, they haven’t given us a road map when they will change it. When we ask ‘when are you changing the public order act’ they will come and arrest us, using the public order act. You see it is laughable and worrisome. We didn’t expect to be arrested, we took all precautions, but it was saddening because we thought we had space for us to maneuver and help govern. I think they need to revisit the public order act as they promised,” said Mwenda.