My reflection exercising my right to an opinion contained in Article 20 of the Zambia Constitution.
I must start by registering my greatest disappointment with Southern Province Commissioner, Bonny Kapeso’s scolding of his fellow police officers for merely respecting and following the constitution.
Allowing a lawful and peaceful demonstration and a lawful peaceful sit-in procession by citizens in Zambia is neither a crime nor illegal but a constitutional requirement and right.
The actions by Livingstone police to permit the UPND members to stage a sit-in procession at Livingstone Central Police to register their displeasure over the treatment, arrest and detention by police of their leader, Hakainde Hichilema, cannot attract harsh reaction from police officer of Commissioner Kapeso’s standing.
Commissioner Kapeso is one of the few police officers I have revered and whom I consider to be level headed and understands the law that governs assemblies including the rights and freedoms of the people in the country.
In fact, just a few days ago, we were together on Chikuni radio discussing the public order Act where he put up a good and unbiased argument and where I personally told him how I admired him so much in the discharge of his police duties since the yesteryears when he was Zambia Police Force spokesperson.
Now to hear that he is threatening his fellow officers for doing what is right and for respecting people’s constitutional right to assemble, express and associate, is extremely unfortunate.
To allege that the Livingstone police have a “soft spot” for the opposition and have a “hidden agenda” just for allowing citizens to exercise their rights in a responsible manner, is quite disappointing especially coming from a senior police officer of commissioner Kapeso’s calibre.
It is important to note that those threatened by Commissioner Kapeso should start preparing themselves for a lawsuit in case Commissioner Kapeso would want to implement what he termed “serious consequences” against them. In that lawsuit, they should raise constitutional issues against him.
The current Bill of Rights in Article 20 and 21 of the constitution guarantees individual citizens freedom of expression, association, assembly etal without interference such as displaying of placards and freely assemble. Further article 193 (e) guides that “the Zambia Police Service shall uphold the Bill of Rights.”
I believe Commissioner Kapeso is aware of these constitutional provisions which is mandated to promote. Therefore, his hard-handedness on his fellow officers and citizens and his desire to capture the attention of the president, through the show of over loyalty, will just dent his professionalism, the name of the president and also Zambian democratic credentials.
My humble advice to him as one of his admirer, is to remain professional, ethical, less overzealous and above board.
As I often argue, the behavior and conduct of state officers in their tour of duty and desire to appease the appointing authority can build or destroy the president’s reputation locally and internationally.
The current president is on record saying only people after engaging in “violent activities” and “criminal suspects” will “face full force of the law.”
Now are the Livingstone police officers criminal suspects or engaged themselves in violent to be dealt with “serious consequences” by Commissioner Kapeso’s office? What does he mean when says all police officers should support of the government of the day?
Isn’t it that the constitution reigns supreme in all the actions of the police? Is it now an offence to respect and follow the constitution such that one has to face “serious consequences for respecting and following it save for those in support of the government of the day? Countrymen and women, where are we taking this country?
In this regard, I find Commissioner Kapeso’s rantings against his fellow officers extremely unnecessary, unacceptable in a democratic state, lacks professionalism, unconstitutional and purely partisan.
It is sound leadership for Commissioner Kapeso to further apologise to Livingstone police officers for scolding them publicly even when they were on the right.
The Inspector General must therewith censure Commissioner Kapeso to stop intimidating his juniors who are respecting and following the constitution in their pursuit to maintain law and order in the country.