The narrative that exists regarding the dangers of police work in our country continues to create a sense of fear among people. Mix that with guns and too much authority, you have a long lasting problem. We, all of us, have this problem. The hyper-violent policing that is practiced in this country is a disgrace. The disparity in how people are treated by the police, based on their political affiliation is shameful. It is evil.
No democratic country on earth is policed as we are in Zambia. We have too many law enforcement agencies, yet our Human Rights record as a country is at its lowest. Our law enforcers are too heavily armed, but those they harm have no arms to defend themselves with. They are extremely militarised, even though our country is not at war with anyone but itself. Quickly, they resort to violence even without provocation, yet citizens tolerate their abuse of power and authority. They are rarely held accountable, but they double the punishment for wrong doers.
As a country, we need to broaden the discussion of police brutality and political injustices. We need to realise that the unregulated police force is a human rights problem. We need to convince those who may feel removed or safe from police violence to understand that they are, in fact neither unaffected nor safe. Those in the PF need to realise that they are building a monster in the police service that will swallow the party soon as the tables turn. Police misconduct has become a fixture of the news cycle, but only one section of society seems concerned.
Why are we bringing this up now, you may wonder.
Well, it has been over a week since disturbing footage of police brutality from Copperbelt University emerged. Human Right activists went further to produce a tearful documentary about the heartbreaking incident, but we have not heard any sincere condemnation of the incident from the government, particularly from those who are in the Patriotic Front leadership.
When making reference to the Coppoerblt University incident, we are not suggesting that students are above the law and should not be touched. Even if they are ‘children’, they must learn that if they don’t air their grievances within the confines of the law, there are consequences. But we are asking police officers to follow the law when pursuing lawbreakers. Simple. Police officers need to understand that they are not above the law themselves, therefore they cannot abandon the Constitution when bringing culprits to book.
We must state here, without hesitation, that the conduct of police officers at Copperbelt University on Friday December 8, 2017 speaks volumes of how deep in the ditch we have been thrown as a country. What is worse is that the police command lied about the incident. When asked why police officers were beating students, Copperbelt Province police commissioner Charity Katanga claimed there was no student who was beaten. Madam Katanga, whom we respect so much, misled the nation into believing that her officers followed the law when pursuing protesting students, but the truth was laid bare in a video footage that followed.
A horde of armed police officers descended on a poor student, right inside the building where he should be sleeping, and took turns tearing his body with all forms of weaponry. This is what the police wanted to cover up. They wanted that brutal action concealed so that they protect the assassins in police uniform.
Surely, is this the kind of action that our government can take so casually? Is this the country the PF wants citizens to live in and not complain? No! Our political leaders need to come to a realisation that endurance has it’s own limits. People’s patience can only go so far. There comes a time when citizens can’t hold on any longer; and the fire in the wrath of citizens who resolve to survive a totalitarian regime takes decades to put out.
But we know that the PF is enjoying their time in power. That is why they have chosen to abolish all students unions. Their intention is that when students are beaten like that, there is no body to complain. They want students completely disarmed and voiceless.
Pardon us if our analogy feels a little graphic, but in this particular context, we don’t see a big difference between the PF government and a child defiler, a rapist. Those who molest children always warn the victims against telling their neighbours. They threaten that “if you tell our neighbour what we do in the night, you will be chased from the house”. The PF would rather we stay quiet and persevere through the rape ordeal for as long as they remain on top enjoying. Whoever protests, gets arrested and beaten – gang-raped, if you will.
But this cannot go on forever as a one-sided affair. To borrow the words of Stellah Nyanzi, a Ugandan protester of Yoweri Museveni’s brutal regime, “Sex without consent is nothing else but rape, leadership without the approval of the majority citizenry is a bitter form of rape.” Indeed, there is no drop of joy or pleasure in some of the things that the PF government in Zambia is doing. There is no sweet at all that one can draw from rape. Maybe it is sweet to a selected few who enjoy being blindfolded or tied down, but to the rest of the normal citizens, it’s a painful experience.