PRESIDENT Hakainde Hichilema has pardoned 700 inmates as the country commemorates its 57th Independence anniversary.

And Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Jack Mwiimbu says the ban on road blocks will remain, despite calls for the directive to be reversed.

During a media briefing, Saturday, Mwiimbu said the pardoning of 700 inmates would go a long way in addressing congestion challenges in correctional facilities.

“As you may be aware, the total holding capacity of our correctional centres remains at 10,500. The UPND government will work tirelessly to ensure that there is a paradigm shift of the penal system going forward. On behalf of the Zambia Correctional services staff, inmates and indeed on my own behalf as Minister of Home Affairs and Internal Security, I would like to take this opportunity to thank His Excellency, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, the President of the Republic of Zambia and Commander-in-Chief of the defence force for exercising his prerogative of mercy on the 700 inmates. This will go a long way in addressing congestion in our correctional centres,” he said.

Mwiimbu said he had demanded a full inventory of inmates in the country in order to deal with the issue of congestion in prisons.

“You may wish to know that on average, the correctional service has been admitting more than 200 new admissions per week across the country. This situation has to be addressed by all stakeholders in the criminal justice system. In this regard, I have directed the Zambia Correctional Service to urgently submit a full inventory of all the inmates and remandees with the corresponding offences and length of stay in all the correctional facilities,” he said.

Mwiimbu also called on the public and families of the pardoned inmates to support the former inmates by not discriminating against them.

He said if well supported, the former inmates could contribute significantly to the social economic development of the country.

And responding to a question on road blocks, Mwiimbu said the directive would remain in place.

“I want to restate the position…as a responsible government, we decided to take proper and make considered decisions pertaining to the management of road blocks in this country. And in our instructions to the police, we gave a directive that we shall retain security check points at very strategic points throughout the country. The instructions were very clear. Further, we directed Zambia traffic officers to continue managing traffic on our roads, these motorized patrols were not abandoned, speed checks were not abandoned. All the instructions and procedures pertaining to management of traffic are still in place, they have not been suspended by anyone, not from my office or from Zambia police,” he said.

“Coming to the issue which you have raised that there is lawlessness on the roads because the roadblocks have been removed, I tend to think and I would like to state without fear of any contradiction that roadblocks do not control traffic, they don’t. Roadblocks are merely there to check on the defects on the vehicles and whether the vehicles have been licensed. A road block cannot check on how a driver has been driving 10 kilometres away from the road block. Traffic has a way it is regulated, it is not done through road blocks.”

He warned police officers not to defy the directive, stating that anyone who goes against it would be dealt with accordingly.

“The complaints on social media and so on are being generated by my traffic police officers. The directive to the police and motor vehicle drivers is that please abide by the rules and regulations that have been put under the laws of this country. To the police, especially those in the traffic section, they must abide by the instructions. They know deep down their hearts that there are instructions and processes that have been given [on] how they can manage traffic. Where they are supposed to regulate traffic, they are not there deliberately because they are defying and becoming insolent because we have told them to stop the roadblocks. That cannot be allowed. You are aware that this government believes in the rule of law, anyone who does not want to abide by lawful instructions, they should not blame anybody,” Mwiimbu said.

“I have also heard when people talk about accidents that have taken place, are we being advised that the accidents are happening because there are no roadblocks?”

Meanwhile, in response to a question on the security situation in Lusaka’s Chibolya area, Mwiimbu said government would take appropriate action to ensure that citizens were safe as they pass through the area.

“We are not going to come up with a policy direction on Chibolya, what we have to do is to ensure that the police and respective security wings of government take appropriate action by providing security in the area. We are aware of what is happening in Chibolya and along the roads between the city market to Kanyama and other areas. We are aware; we will up our game by ensuring that the security is provided to members of the public, we are aware of the issues,” said Mwiimbu.