Patriotic Front(PF) Deputy Chief Parliamentary Whip Tutwa Ngulube has denied claims that the ruling party is behind the gassing of residents that is fast spreading across the country and linked to ritual killings .
Meanwhile, New Labour Party president Fresher Siwale says President Edgar Chagwa Lungu should address the nation on the spraying of residents instead of delegating his responsibilities to “young boys” like Sunday Chanda who have gone on rampage accusing the UPND of orchestrating the criminal activity.
And Republican Progressive Party (RPP) vice president Leslie Chikuse says it is rubbish for anyone to accuse the UPND of gassing residents, saying if the largest opposition party was involved in the atrocity, arrests could have been made by now.
Sources indicate that the PF is behind the gassing of residents in its desire to declare a State of Emergency and consequently impose a One Party system on the Zambian people by arresting opposition leaders, especially UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema who is viewed as a main contender in the 2021 General Elections.
But speaking in a telephone interview, Mr Ngulube who is also PF Kabwe Central Constituency Member of Parliament said the ruling party has nothing to do with the gassing of innocent persons that started in Chingola on the Copperbelt and now spreading to other parts of the country.
According to Mr Ngulube who is a lawyer by profession, the gassing of people is happening in the ruling party strongholds and wonders how the PF would harm it’s on people.
“How can the PF be gassing people ahead of the 2021 elections? Have you ever seen the PF gassing people? The PF has been in power for nine years, this gassing thing has never been there. Even the issue of where are they gassing. If you have analytical skills, you will realise that they are only gassing people in PF strongholds. What does that tell you? It tells you that the PF is gassing itself. If you analyse the all situation and the type of gassing complaints, you will realise that there are no gassing complaints in Southern Province, there are no gassing complaints in Western Province and there are no gassing complaints in North- Western Province or in short, there are no gassing complaints in non PF strongholds while there are gassing complaints in PF strongholds. So, it is not the PF gassing people,” Mr Ngulube stressed.
Asked if he was maintaining the PF propaganda machine’s claim that it is the UPND behind the gassing of residents, Mr Ngulube could not confirm such claims.
” I don’t know if it is the red party(UPND), all I am telling you is that as far as we are concerned, whether it is the red party or not, all I can say is that according to my analysis, it is not the PF that is gassing people,” he said.
Asked whether it is in order for the President to reward anyone with information leading to the capture of the criminals behind the atrocities, Mr Ngulube said the Head of State is concerned about the gassing of innocent residents hence his move to put a bounty K250 000 on the table.
“The ritual killings are happening at community level, so the President’s offer to anyone who could have information…There is an urgent need to end such kinds of atrocities against our people. So, the President is in order because even in America, the Americans are able to put up USD 1million for anyone with information leading to the capture of a suspect that is involved in terrorising American citizens. Everyone is doing it, the all world does that. So, I don’t think the President did anything wrong. It is in order for a Head of State to offer a bounty, especially when you have a very serious situation like the one we have right now.”
Asked whether the reward has been offered because the investigative wings have failed to do their job.
The Kabwe law-maker said the police act on information given to them by members of the community.
“One thing you must realize is that even the police officers are not as effective as the community. The number of officers is below a certain level. If the police officers where everywhere, including schools and hospitals, it could have been easy for them to arrest culprits but the police act on information given to them by members of the public. It is not possible for the police to dream and say tomorrow they will be going this side unless they have information leading to the suspects and that is why the President is calling for people who have information to help the police to catch these people. I think it is not just a question of saying the police have failed, the police have not failed. They are doing their best to end these atrocities.”
But Mr Siwale said the offer of the bounty K250 000 shows that the investigative wings of Government have failed to do their job.
“The offer of a reward is not a correct way of doing things. It shows that Government has failed lamentably in finding a solution to the current problem of ritual killings and spraying of people’s homes.”
The New Labour Party leader claimed that there must be a silent hand in the gassing of residents because of the sophistication of criminals involved in the crime.
“One things that comes out of this scenario is that the level of organisation by these criminals is such that no single private citizen can have such a level of organization unless , there is a State actor in it. How are these criminals able to evade police? it means that they must have information on the police movement. In this country, the police have the intelligence unit which feeds into the operations of the police. Now, how has the intelligence unit of the police failed to gather information on the movement of these criminals. It points to the fact that these criminals may have informants within the security services,” Mr Siwale said.
He said offering a reward is just a Public Relation(PR) game that will not provide any solution.
“…Not withstanding these failures, offering a reward will not solve this problem. let(President) Lungu address the nation on these ritual killings which have spread widely. They started in Chingola and now they are spreading to the rest of the Copperbelt and now it is country wide. This shows that, these criminals are elements of rogue. They must be working with State actors and for this reason, Government must address the root cause of this problem because we cannot have a situation of ritual killers every year before elections, starting with 2010, 2015, 2016 and now we are going to 2021. It shows that there are some elements within the corridors of power who may have access to lots of information and they are feeding it to these criminals,” Mr Siwale said.
He said it is unacceptable that from the time these ritual killings began in Chingola, President Lungu has failed to address the nation, saying the Head of State must be decisive and not offering rewards.
“…It means that he(President Lungu) does not understand or he has taken a route of irresponsibility and we cannot have such happenings in our nation. Let him provide leadership by first addressing the nation and squarely addressing the issue of ritual killings. Why is he afraid to address the issue of ritual killings?” Mr Siwale wondered.
Asked whether reports that the UPND is behind the ritual killings are true, the opposition leader said, “(President)Lungu cannot address this issue using boys like Sunday Chanda. He himself must address the nation on this issue because if he does not do that, it means he is abdicating his duties of the nation. In addressing this issue, he must also provide resources to the security wings. There must be an internal investigation within the national security wing to see if they are not collaborating with criminals because of the level of sophistication that we are seeing in these criminals. Why is he afraid to address the nation? let him address the nation on this issue. He must give a way forward for the plans he has. He must give hope to the people that he is governing and lead in providing security to the nation and not hiding in that reward. Can you imagine the entire security services of this country failing to address this issue?”
And Mr Chikuse said President Lungu is cheapening the Presidency by offering a reward to anyone with information on the actors of gassing innocent people.
He said when giving a statement that there is K250 000 for anyone with information about the people behind dangerous act, the President was probably in the mood of the Chilubi by-election, thinking that he was campaigning.
” I think that is a very weak way of showing seriousness when you are dealing with issues of national security. See, when you are a Commander- in- Chief and you are giving a directive, you must give a directive uncompromisingly. You cannot be a Commander-in Chief and give a directive, compromising yourself that ‘I am going to give a K250 000’ as if you are a counselor or an MP. You are supposed to give a directive to the combined security forces, meaning that you are supposed to give instructions to the police, army and the Office of the President(OP). But giving a reward to person, that is not a job of the President. The job of the President is to strengthen the security personnel by ensuring that they work effectively. So, the President’s offer of the K250 000 is a mockery, a very serious mockery.
The President should desist from making such kinds of offers when he is dealing with such kind of serious security issues. What we expect, is the President to give an ultimatum to the army and the police that within this period of time, we want these people to be brought to book without fail and even talk about certain punishment such as dismissals. That is what we expect from the President but I think the President was in a mood of the Chilubi by election. He was still thinking that he was in Chilubi and they were still campaigning. No, it is a serious business, a national security business because the lives of the masses are in his hands.”
The RPP vice President said he expects the security wings of Government to bring to book criminals within 24 hours.
“We expect that the security concludes this issue within 24 hours. We should not be talking about gassing because we have realised that some of the people doing this are teenagers,” Mr Chikuse said.
Queried whether the UPND could be behind evil act against the Zambian citizens, Chikuse angrily said:
“That is rubbish. If it is the UPND, why have they not brought them to book? What we are saying is that whoever is doing this thing must be brought to book. Let us not politicise this issue. This issue is not about politics. This issue is about lives of the masses. So, if it is the UPND, why have they not been brought to book? We have proper administrative agencies that are supposed to deal with these issues and these issues must be brought to book. That is what we are talking about. So, let us not talk about rubbish, let us be serious.”
There has been riots in some parts of Lusaka, with residents gutting suspected ritual killers.
Police and the army have since been deployed to patrol the streets of Lusaka.