Zambia Catholic bishops Sunday condemned the police’s heavy-handedness in dealing with perceived opponents of the governing Patriotic Front (PF) party.

“We decry the bad habit which political parties in power assume immediately they make a government of using the Police Service to settle political scores and prevent their political rivals from organising, campaigning and therefore selling their vision of the country and nation to the electorate,” said a statement issued by Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu, the president of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops.

“It is the same story from one administration to the other and the present government is no exception! As a result of brutalising the people through the Police Service, the general public is reduced to fear so that the order of the day is corruption and misuse of public funds. Anyone who criticises the government for wrong doing is sure to have the police unleashed on him or her.”

His supporters

The bishops condemned the arrest of main opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, popularly called by his supporters as HH.

“We nevertheless deplore the massive, disproportionate and entirely unnecessary force with which the Police acted in apprehending him. Would it not have been much more civilised and professional to deliver a summons to him containing a charge and ordering him to appear before the police to answer charges of alleged law breaking? The brutal way in which the Police acted has only served to heighten the already considerable tension in the nation particularly between supporters of the UPND and PF,”

said the statement.

A dramatic raid

Police recently arrested Mr Hichilema for treason after mounting a dramatic raid on his residence east of Lusaka.

Mr Hichilema and his aides were currently being held at the Lusaka Central Correctional facility.

The opposition leader has appeared in court with another date due next week.

A ceremony

Mr Hichilema was picked up for failing to give way to President Edgar Lungu’s convoy during a ceremony west of the country.

The Catholic bishops’ statement further said: “It is an open secret that the Judiciary have let the country down by failing to stand up to political manipulation and corruption because, how can one explain the failure of the Constitutional Court to hear and exhaustively conclude a presidential petition?”.

Several actions

The election petition was tossed out of court on account of the elapsed 14-day hearing period.

The bishops said there was fear among the people shown in the way they were afraid to speak out against injustices due to several actions by government meant to intimidate the masses.

“Our country is now all, except in designation, a dictatorship and if it is not yet, then we are not far from it. Our political leaders in the ruling party often issue intimidating statements that frighten people and make us fear for the immediate and future.”

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