The reasons that are being advanced by Cabinet Ministers as grounds for the removal of four Sesheke police officers from the Service are confusing. Initially, we were told that the Police Service Commission, acting in the name of President Edgar Lungu, found it fit to retire the officers in “national interest”. That’s all! No reasons were advanced, and under this presidential discretion, there is no requirement for giving any reasons before retiring anyone.
But some Cabinet Ministers, led by Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo, have been leading a campaign aimed at persuading the public into believing that Commanding Officer Shaapa Wakunguma and three other police officers committed serious prosecutable crimes while on duty in Sesheke. The Minister, who is in charge of the Police Service, wants to convince the public that the four police officers committed disciplinary offences.
Stephen KAMPYONGO: “UPND cadres were arrested, put in police custody, then their colleagues came to rescue them violently, and the police were not doing anything about that. What kind of policing is that?” These are issues that the Police Service Commission focused on and zeroed in, and in their own understanding, they discovered that those officers were ground commanders. Of course, there was one constable who was just undisciplined, and him, I witnessed myself. This is a fellow who, with impunity started flashing the party symbol of the UPND while crossing the road! So, the Commission looked into these things and made a decision to dismiss the officers.”
We have been left confused. If this was a disciplinary issue, why weren’t the four officers charged and made to appear before the disciplinary panel so that they can be granted an opportunity to exculpate themselves? Surely, Senior Superintendent Shaapa Wakunguma would be glad to be charged for the offence of indiscipline so that he can give his side of the story in front of a fair and competent judge.
The law demands that the Police Service Commission subjects officers who commit offences, especially of disciplinary nature, to a disciplinary hearing. When did that disciplinary hearing take place for Mr Kampyongo to say the officers were punished for the offences they are now accused of? That is tantamount to pronouncing someone guilty without trial! How would Minister Kampyongo feel if President Lungu was to use his presidential powers to expel him from PF without any reasons stated on the expulsion letter, only to be told later that he was expelled for trying to overthrow the Head of State?
Yes, no one can challenge the President’s decision to retire the four officers, but let those in government stop destroying their names to the public in this unfair manner. If these officers are as guilty as we are being told, why did the government choose to retire them instead of firing them? Why reward full retirement packages to such wrong doers? What is ‘national interest’ about negligence of duty? This is a clear case of abuse of authority and abuse of the rights of the accused officers.
But we know what the PF wants. They are subordinating the police to cadres so that they legislate anarchy, which seems to be winning them elections. Honourable Kampyongo wants when a PF cadre steps on a police officer, the officer must kneel and apologetically say to the cadre: “I am sorry, sir, I have put my toes under your foot”. That is why the Police Service Commission was only able to see something wrong when police beat PF cadres and not when they beat UPND or opposition cadres. This is a shame!
As if that was not enough, we have another Cabinet Minister in the name of Charles Banda, who has been telling people that officer Wakunguma and his men put the life of President Lungu in danger. This Minister, who is in charge of Tourism and Arts, says people who neglect their duty to the extent of endangering the Head of State’s life should not be kept in the service.
Charles BANDA: “There is nothing political in the firing of the police officers; it was regarding the life of the Head of State. If you put the life of the Head of State at risk then you are not fit for that job. Negligence of duty cost those cops. In other countries, people would have been injured in Sesheke because they went to threaten the life of the Head of State, which is not correct. When there is failure to perform in sections like the police service, actions should follow. There was failure in Sesheke to secure the life of the Head of State, which means there was a lapse, somebody did not do their job properly and you don’t keep such people in the police.”
We find this narrative absolutely wrong, prejudiced, vexatious and annoying! It is unfair that Senior Superintendent Wakunguma and his officers must be seen in the public eye, as State officers who endangered the President’s life, when their retirement letters did not have any of those accusations. What is Mr Banda talking about? Does this Minister know that there are close to 50 police officers from State House who travel in advance to comb the area where the Head of State will visit, and even take all the required presidential entourage cars in advance? Does the Tourism Minister know that on the day of travel, the President moves with another set of State police VVIP protectors who are specially trained in that area of security?
If those are the offences that the four officers committed, arrest them and charge them appropriately so that they can justify their actions in court. But we know the PF government is not going to take that route because they know the four police victims are innocent. They cannot justify any of the accusations they are lumping on officer Wakunguma and his men. It’s all lies to satisfy their desire to fix police officers who have ‘wrong’ surnames. It’s tribal, and because of their tribes, these officers were perceived to be supporting the UPND. That is the truth.
But we will not relent in warning President Lungu and his team that you cannot continue to condemn young government employees into poverty like this! This power that is being abused is spilling blood on the hands of the brutal rulers of this regime and they must not think people are too stupid to see what’s happening. Like we said, once the system gets fed up with this tyranny, President Lungu and his cohorts will leave government in the most degrading way ever! We are watching.