On August 13, 2017, Police arrested UPP leader Saviour Chishimba and charged him with defamation of the President. He was denied police bond and detained at Woodlands Police Station for seven days. However, the police command made the decision to not only release the opposition political party leader, but also to drop the charge of defamation of the President.
We asked the Police spokesperson Esther Mwaata Katongo to explain why Mr Chishimba’s charges had been dropped, but she had no proper explanation apart from, “Just know that we have released him and we have discontinued the case.”
Well, whatever might have happened, our opinion is that it was a wise move. We salute the police command and Mr Kakoma Kanganja in particular, for making an unusual, but right decision. The same way we blame the Inspector General of Police when he takes dirty instructions from the President and ministers is the same way we must commend him for releasing Saviour Chishimba. The same way we call him names when police take illegal actions, is the same way we must salute him for dropping the “defamation of the President” charge against the opposition leader. Let him take the credit for this professional decision.
Of course we know that there was politics at play. It could be that the arrest and subsequent detention of Saviour Chishimba and the expulsion of Chishimba Kambwili and Mwenya Musenge from the ruling party were sending a wrong political signal to Bembaland – and the President didn’t want to have so much to explain when officiating at the Ukusefya Pang’wena traditional ceremony last weekend. Or maybe the timing for keeping another political leader in detention was not correct, considering the negative public opinion surrounding the UPND treason case. But it really doesn’t matter – induced or not, the IG made a wise decision.
It may appear like the police had a good case against Saviour for asking President Lungu “Bushe chalo chakwa wiso?” But that only looks that way because we have created a society in Zambia where the law is what the police officer says it is, not what is in the Constitution. We have been arrested before for various offences, among them defamation of the President and we know how easy it is in Zambia to get that charge, especially under Presidnt Edgar Lungu. Even just pointing at the President can land you in prison. Depending on how tilted your finger gets when pointing at him, you can go in for treason. That is why after Chishimba’s arrest, some political figureheads judged that he went too far with his criticism of President Lungu. But with this decision from the police command, we can confidently agree with the Inspector General that Chishimba did not break the law.
Yes, it is embarrassing for the police to arrest a citizen, a political rival to the Head of State, charge him with defamation of the President and then release him without taking him to court. But a commander at war who doesn’t know when to retreat loses both the battle and his troops. We believe the police looked at the law and realised that Chishimba committed no offence when he made the following statement against President Lungu over the declaration of the Threatened State of Emergency:
“This is what the international community has been saying, that the President is a dictator, but he has been refusing. But he said it himself, that ‘now you are going to bear with me, I am going to be a dictator’. Kwati nichalo chakwa wishi ‘I am going to become a dictator’. Chalo chakwa wiso? Is this your country? There are many Zambians and this country does not belong to the President alone, no!
You can’t just stand and say ‘I am going to be a dictator, bear with me’, bear with you over what? How can you ask people to bear with your foolishness? This is utter foolishness. You can’t think like that, you are the President; you need to deal with facts. Don’t speculate like those who are on the street. The rights of citizens that are protected under international law are taken away from people in the name of public emergency, bupumbu bupumbu you take away… ‘No public emergency’, emergency yakwani? yakwa wiso? Yakwa noko? People must see the emergency, not just you.
I think time has come to start examining these men, to go to that psychiatric hospital to be examined. I don’t think that someone who is in their right frame of mind can do such a thing. President Lungu and his colleagues are totally on the wrong side of history. What you are doing, these acts are like these are men and women who belong to the land of the dead. Let people who belong to the land of the living do things that are sensible, because it is those people who belong to the land of the living who fulfill destiny. If you men have no destiny to care about, we ask you to quietly go back to the land of the dead where you belong.
Zambia continued with the same authoritarian decree, and this is what President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is now shamelessly taking us back to, umuntu (someone) who is even a lawyer. He has studied these things I am talking about. What kind of a lawyer are you? Because as a lawyer, you must be a champion to respect human rights, you must show us how your degree is working as a lawyer, as counsel. Unless you are telling us that there is something questionable about yourself, about your credentials, because as a lawyer, you must care about the working society.
We demand that you revoke the proclamation that ‘there exists a situation which may lead to public emergency’. The government should focus on strengthening the security surveillance system as opposed to placing Zambia on the list of unsafe destinations. Some of the States in the Middle East have State of Emergencies, but terrorism and acts of violence and civil disobedience continue to escalate in their countries. So there is no guarantee that when you declare a State of Emergency, then suddenly, security will return to the nation. There is no guarantee at all. That’s not the way to think, that’s what we call thinking in reverse syndrome. You are thinking upside down, you can’t do things like that. Revoke that proclamation if you care about yourself, if you care about your family, if you care about the people of Zambia.”
When police went to conduct a search at Saviour Chishimba’s office, they demanded for a print-out of this statement from last month’s press briefing. The statement was surrendered to the police and after days of consulting the law, the police command decided to drop their charge against the innocent politician. This is how it ought to be. We salute you Bwana IG, Mwami Bazungu!!