Last week President Edgar Lungu made a very strange admission, or rather confession: “The public confidence in the police service is low, and it is up to the police, themselves, to regain that confidence by their actions. To this end, there is urgent need for the police service to address these public concerns if the people of Zambia are to regain confidence in them.
”It’s very difficult to disagree with what President Lungu is saying. But there’s one very serious omission: the cause of all this loss of public confidence in police.
It’s the abuse of the police by President Lungu and his followers that has, more than anything else, contributed to this state of affairs. They have turned the police into a wing of the ruling party for use against the opposition and other dissenting voices.
Nothing would be more dangerous than to confuse men and women who are responsible for the maintenance of law and order in our country.
Those in government, therefore, must remember that even for their own good, their fellow citizens in the police must be left to deal with the maintenance of law and order in the way they have been trained.
It’s very dangerous for politicians in the governing party to control the police and make it do their bidding.
In any country where law is deliberately twisted to entrap political opponents and in which police officers act as an extension of the ruling party cadres rather than impartial professional law enforcement officers, there can be nothing but tyranny and a mockery of justice. Let them continue abusing the police now, but let them also remember that when they have left the pinnacle of power what may appear acceptable on others now may taste oppressive. In other words, they should remember that while today it is them at the giving end; tomorrow it may be them at the receiving end.
On the other hand, police officers would greatly help to evolve a fair and impartial police, defend the rule of law and constitutionalism and guarantee the success of our multiparty political dispensation and pluralism, if, individually and collectively, they resolved to discharge their policing obligations without fear or favour.
Dr Kenneth Kaunda gave us very good guidance on this score: “First and foremost must come the quality of impartial fair play for I do not wish my policemen to be partisans to the many political and tribal feuds that may emerge in our country, as has happened in others. The worst policeman so far as I am concerned is that man who will not admonish or arrest another because he is of the same tribe, race or political sympathy. Equally reprehensible is the policeman who will not do his duty for fear that because he is of a different tribe, race or political feeling his deeds will be misunderstood. If you should ever find yourselves in a position of compromise against the principles of fair play and impartiality, then be humble enough to seek God’s guidance because neither the present nor the future generation will forgive you for betraying the many people who have died and suffered in the struggle to bring forth this independent land” (Police Training School, Lilayi – April 15, 1966).