A Night in a Zambian Jail
By Wesley Ngwenya
As the 40th birthday party of my former boss wound up, three of us decided to share a cab on our way to our homes. It was just about midnight the cab sped through the lighted streets of Addis Ababa Road and turned towards Longacres. Two of the colleagues were having a heated argument and the lady got so upset and asked the cab driver to stop. The driver stopped soon after we passed Intercontinental Hotel and the lady got out of the car.

The streets were quiet at this time of the night and therefore no cars around. Meanwhile the other guy decided to take off with the cab driver as I followed the lady towards Intercontinental Hotel. I stood with her not too far from the hotel grounds waiting for a cab. Instead of a cab a van of armed police officers approached us and ordered us to get in the vehicle. We got in the vehicle and took off to Kabwata Police Station but not before rounding up the girls who were working the streets around Chrismar Hotel.

At the police station we were ordered to take off our shoes, etcetera. I demanded to know why I was being detained but the officers were arrogant and eager to show their power. While I was on the cool side my colleague was not. She was literally resisting arrest and told the police officers “who she was”. I could hear the conversation cool down as I was led into the police cells at Kabwata.

The cell was crowded with bodies occupying every available space. The toilet was stinking terribly. There were cockroaches, flies and all sorts of bugs who were sharing the space with us. In the cells I met one government employee who has been detained for two days because he accidentally hit the minister’s vehicle in the parking lot at Ministry of Lands. He is being accused of trying to kill the minister even though the vehicle was empty. There were all kinds of people none of them looked like criminals.

While everyone fell asleep and some even snoring lots of thoughts crept through my mind. I thought about how it was dehumanizing. How I was harassed. How unhelpful, ignorant and arrogant the officers had been. What were my rights and if I could sue the police? I had never ever committed a crime in my life. What bothered me most is how it was difficult to reason and talk with the police. Why did I have to spend the night in the police cells if my offence was a payable fine of $4? They said they did not have the receipt book and so I will have to pay in the morning. I was later told by my cellmates that I should have just offered to bribe them and they would have let me go. How stupid was I not to even have thought about this. I would have gladly paid my bribe price had I known.

As I was being led out of the cells around 5am I kept thinking about how sickening our justice system was in this country. Is there even justice? The education level of our police offices leaves much to be desired. I felt like a real criminal those few hours I spent inside there. Instead of paying the $4 they took the all the little money on me. They were kind enough though to give me some change for a cab from my money. There was no receipt. And the lady colleague who supposedly was changed the same offence as me never spent a second in the cells because her mother is a “somebody”. Now that is justice in Zambia.

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91 COMMENTS

    • I read a similar story just a few weeks ago, a person get into a cab with guys, heats up a conversation bla bla,,, silly stories ba LT, we know it didnt happen and the style is so obvious……….

      If you wanna talk about the police, just get straight into it….and save us the bedtime style of stories

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  1. Sad but true. Yes you should have just paid them $4. I would.
    As long as these guys are paid peanuts, they will always accept to be paid. It was difficult to pay a policeman back in the 70s.

    Oops! Let me see in 1.

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  2. THE ACTING IG OF POLICE SHOULD ENSURE HIS OFFICERS ALWAYS WEAR SOME IDENTIFICATION CARDS OR BADGE EVEN WRITTEN IN PEN SO WE KEEP TRACK OF THESE STUPID OFFICERS SO THAT THEY COULD BE REPORTED TO RELEVANT AUTHORITIES IF AT ALL THEY EXIST AS THEY HAVE GONE TOO FAR IN THE NAME OF BEING PAID PEANUTS.

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  3. the story sounds familiar, a 19 yrs old lady was approached outside her house in Rhodes Park area, by a tourist from Canada asking for directions to Holiday Inn around 21;00 Hrs, meanwhile a police van stopped and arrested her for loitering, the white man was not even asked any questions, and he procceded to go to his way… at the police station, the lady was slapped by police officers claiming her to be a street worker and that she should give them the money. She was then raped in a room on a dirty mattress at the station! These things happen it’s very sad, that the people who are supposed to help us abuses us shamelessly.

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  4. But why did the chap decide to follow the girl in the middle of the night anyway? This is what happens if you do things blindly. However, we need clarity as to whether its within law to detain someone wondering or moving at night? Lawyers please advise on this matter?

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  5. Why stand by the road at mid night in town?in fact the police did well by picking you and locking you in the cells as a lesson never move at night in quiet places and for that matter, no cars moving around.It unfortunately the girl was not locked up in cells.But i think she also learnt a lesson.
    Compliments to ZP for the job well done, other wise if you came into the hands of the night thugs could have robbed and kill both of you 😮

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    • I am also thinking the same thing. What were they doing wondering the streets at midnight. The streets are not safe. Had it not been for ZP, who knows what would have happened. He would have been robbed and killed by some thugs.

      I hope Wesley has learnt his lesson together with the girl. You shouldn’t be wondering the streets at midnight.

      Next time Bassopp!!!!

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    • I think you are talking crap and don’t defend these ignorant police officers who barely understand the law they are supposed to enforce.

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    • Anonymous

      For them to be police officers, they must know and understand the law. If they did not know or fully understand the law, there could be mayhem in the nation.

      I can tell you this though, I am 10x sure the same police officers you call ignorant know the law to its full extent better than you do.

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    • Ka Anonymous you are dull, a man found with a lady around midnight along the road, very quiet, no cars passing.Zp came and took the two to the police station, man put in cells and lady resisted arrest.Very simple english ka Anonymous you are dull,what should come in your head is what are the two a boy and a girl doing in a quiet place around midnight?Zp saved there souls from thugs and also these chaps you say are ignorant, they went to school and got a cert for the job.I challege you, they understand law they were taught at Zp school.Ka Anonymous you are dull , what do you know about law anyway?

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    • Ka Anonymous you are dull, a man found with a lady around midnight along the road, very quiet, no cars passing.Zp came and took the two to the police station, man put in cells and lady resisted arrest.Very simple english ka Anonymous you are dull,what should come in your head is what are the two a boy and a girl doing in a quiet place around midnight?Zp saved there souls from thugs and also these chaps you say are ignorant, they went to school and got a cert for the job.I challege you, they understand law they were taught at Zp school.Ka Anonymous you are dull , what do you know about law anyway?

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    • Free something and Livingstone, are you guys really serious? The police knowing the law? If that’s what you think and believe in then God help us. Just wait one day when you encountr those chaps then you will know how “knowledgeable” they are law-sise.
      How come they only pick up anything that resembles a sex worker and always leave criminals terrorising the citizens! As someone has already mentioned, Zambia is not in a state of emergency.

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    • That kind of thinking is ludicrous. There is no state of emergency in Zambia. One should be free to be out at whatever time. I love going out for a jog at 2 o’clock in the morning at the weekends. I bet I would have been nicked by now. lol!

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    • but why go jogging at 2 am in the morning??

      This is the time when robbers and thugs take part in many unwanted illegal activities. For all we know, you could be taking part in some of those activities and use jogging as a mask.

      Why not jog at 5am in the morning??

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    • How are you today my dear? How is life that side? Please help me on how to get that ka cartoon I have really missed my cartoon.Good day.

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  6. number 7 Political says,i think you have a point there where does it say in the penal code that moving at night or wondering is an offence. One thing for sure the cops claim its an offence saying that if someone is wondering/loitering at night the person has an idol mind therefore his is capable of commiting crime this is to say, the mind becomes the devils workshop.

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  7. Sorry for what happened but you also made a mistake to follow the lady…why did you follow her? You wanted nkhani from her? Thats the payment you recieved and thank God that you were saved otherwise the owner of that lady would have found you…….

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  8. You are really lucky that you were put in a cell with normal people. If you were put at Kulima tower bus terminus police cells you would have walked out with some injuries . This is normal in Zambia police will book you on tramped up offences in order to solicit bribes . The police in Zambia carry out so many abuses to fundamental human rights that is really amazing nothing has been done about it. Consider yourself lucky for living the place at 4am because if you were John lungu from chibolya you would have spent a week there.

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  9. Next time just pretend to be on a phonecall and say you are calling Uncle Rupiah , That worked for me when I was in zambia I pretended to be a diplomat that was going to call the president and council the contract and they left me alone

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  10. Actually it really bad at night, I was picked up once accused of looking for prostitutes! What nonsenses, anyway I was driven around and these Policemen were looking for other victims. They didn’t find any, so they took me to Lumumba Bus stop Police Post, where they refused to charge me, instead asked how much I had, I did not have any money and was not ready to pay them anything, Anyway it became apparent to them that I was not one to bullied they let me go around zero five. I did my own invstigation and found out that one of the Police officer who had “arrested” me is named Katai, my lawyers are working on the matter as I write.

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    • Policeman Katai, how close where you to the prostitutes, did you talk to any by chance maybe and what time did the Zp “arrest ” you? ):

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  11. Free fimo fimo I can go jogging at whatever time I want to be honest even in Zambia. There is no state of emergency in Zambia.

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  12. Imwe Ba Wesley,
    Do you know this woman you alighted with from the cab?? just because they had a quarrel you decided to take your pick or be the good samaritan??Ati ubufi.

    Ba Zedi cops tabakwata uluse, or any warning. You are lucky to narrate the story with no black eye.

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  13. I think the police acted in the best interest of their duties of enforcing the law which probit roitering around during alkward hours, all they were doing was to protect you and save your life. I dont see any reason of saying that police are ignorant about the laws after saving your life.Infact Ngwenya you must have been luck to release you at 5AM,other wise if you were a boy from john chinena compound you would have been there for a week .

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    • If you are in the States and the cops nicked you for that you would even bring up the race card. Stop being a wum.

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    • Man is there anything wrong for the corps to save somebody’s life? Dont think you understand corps duties more than they do.

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  14. Can’t see any wrong in what Wesley did.
    I may be wrong though. Just because our wum cops have no uluse doesn’t mean they are right in what they do.
    Cha cha cha?

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    • Lets conclude that it was a bad day for Wesley. Hope that makes you happy though loitering is an offence in Zambia.

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  15. Sorry for you man. I had similar experiences with the ZM Police, ZM Traffic, ZM Immigration, ZM Conductors, ZM Kaponya’s, ZM Custorms, ZM neighbours, ZM Street Boys, ZM Tailors, Zm Banks, ZM Guards “Kamalonda” the list goes on. On all counts I refused to give them a “motivation” because I believe public service people do not need tips for the service they were employed to do. I dont understand why I should bribe them when everything is in order, the problem in Zambia is that people do not seek to pay out bribes but the public office bearers have set up their own rules on how much you should pay. The government already pays them but stil they need you to pay them its a terrible work…

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  16. you should have just given them a five pin for two packets of shake shake,those Mofs are poverty stricken retards,lame reprobates who still think the zambian police is still a force yet its a service.Its just a reflection of our thinking,so degradable,they fell to reason especially in the night cause they are drank whilst working.I have handled many of them,I once slapped one of them in livingstone last summer ande his cap dropped,and I was charged for droping his cap and not for slapping a so called officer.

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    • I always tell them never to push a dog in a dead end of a street or it will turn around and bite,its like throwing gasoline on fire it will burn,learn to be a soldier at night,dont compromise plant your feet on the ground and bite your mouth piece and tell them lets go.

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  17. I wouldn’t like to say much to the so called Justice in Zambia. The movie Changeling is not far from what is happening in our country, only in a different way. Watch the movie. It’s based on a true story. Can you imagine watching the movie and just thinking while “This smells like Justice in our country” if it all it exists. Policemen are not protecting but brutalising the Zambian citizens. The police officers are taking Zambians for granted in the name of being peaceful people. Very, Very sad!

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  18. In civilized societies people are free to walk around at any time of day or night till early mornings as long as they are not out to commit crime, that’s called Democracy , were citizens enjoy freedom and liberties which is universally recognised..afterall we claim to be a free nation.., . those policemen must learn the meaning of there duties which is to serve and protect!!! A policeman/ must be a friend and helper, not a sadist, or bully!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    • Unfortunately I did not make such a ruling in ZAmbia neither wasI part and parcel, but it happens like it or not..evidently.
      If there is no such law, wooo to ZAmbia…

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    • Its your language too Ba Chairman and I respect it .God bless you too , its sunday today for any foul language on the blogg.. comprehend??

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    • Ba Mr Washingtonian, if there is no such law in Zambia, Wesley is intelligent /knowledgeable enough to have refused to alight/ get into that van at that particular hour of the night.. He would have refused to get into that van as part of his human rights). period. end of story, you think?

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    • Ba Chairman baku Omelo Mumba Chinena is that what you can say ha! lelo ni pa Sande ka 😮

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    • Ba Mr. Chairman, may the lord deliver you from your dermons , daily… and grow up for once.

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    • If wesley had refused to get into that van he wouldn’t be typing the article. Do you really think Zambian police care about human rights, wesley would have been panel beaten with jombo’s for such insurbodination

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    • Ba slumdog Shalapungu, uncle/bro,
      That ‘s exacttly what I meant that Ba Zedi Police tabakwata uluse. Wesley is wise/Internationally wise enough not to have accepted to go on that van. Now, because he believes and knows that the shishi..ta law still exists in Zambia, if any.., he obliged,.. what do you expect pa Zedi??

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    • Ba Washingtonian my dear bro.
      Zambian cops’ ‘sometimes’ make their own laws I presume, considering the number of road blocks one encounters driving the Zambian roads. But again, the ‘Shishi..ta ‘ regime would have ended long time ago in UNIP era and they do continue doing so if Wesley is telling the truth.( I do not believe his story anyway) {he is just earning his $}. Why would Zambian cops load someone on a van consciously against their right/will in the right place??

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    • Cutey/wifey, you have no clue on how the ZP behave. When they tell you to jump in their wreck, whether you are right or wrong, you have to otherwise you will panel beaten and you will take your case nowhere. That’s how ZP operates

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  19. It seems the days of “shishi.ta” are back with UNIPIST RB in power. There is nothing illegal in waiting for a taxi at midnight. Little wonder my late friend who was district police chief used to call policemen CRIMINALS IN UNIFORM.

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  20. unfortunately thats the message we are getting we far out in the diaspora. Shishi..ta times still exist. in Zambia….

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  21. ‘There were all kinds of people none of them looked like criminals.’
    I wonder how a criminal looks like! Is he 4+ feet tall and wears expensive Belgian suits? Is he a former Air Force commander? Is he a lawyer? You get the point. Anyone can be a criminal. I think the author is educated. If he is then he can sue for ‘unlawful imprisonment.’ But there is no evidence that he was ever detained in the cells, is there? I presume he had a mobile phone. Before he got to the station, he should have called a friend to alert them as to where he was going to spend the night. The following day, he should have refused to leave until a lawyer turned up. The lawyer would have documented his ‘arrest.’

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  22. It is this ignorance about their rights that are taken advantage of by the starving police officers in Zambia. Over and above all this, there is misuse of the powers that are given to them, inherited from the ‘preservation of public security act’ and ‘state of emergency’ during Kaunda’s days. A woman standing by the street is picked up by the police and charged with ‘loitering!’ The offence is ‘loitering with intent to commit a crime.’ What a stupid law! How do you prove ‘intent’ unless you have been observed? Sex with a stranger is not illegal. Paying for sex is. Money must exchange hands and that, for sex! And we say we have lawyers in Zambia…

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  23. As long as all that people do is complain and write about this, nothing will change. There is a Police complaints provision in Zambia now. I have had the privilledge of befriending police constable in Zambia and I was impressed with their views on human rights. Most of the young ones are aware of this abuse of power and they want to change this bad image. Make an official representation of your case. NEVER leave a police cell until your charge has been laid down in writing! Even prostitutes should not be arrested without proof of taking money for s _e_ x. ‘Loitering with intent…’ The intention must be proved.

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  24. Similarly, speeding! I have never paid a speeding fine where there are no road signs on speed limit. Once I did not stop at a stop sign and I refused to pay because there was no proof that I had NOT stopped. Even where the police use the gadgets, you can challenge their accuracy because there must be a log of daily calibration of that equipment and servicing. Zambia needs lawyers who have the interest of justice at heart, not money spinners! I miss Lucy Sichone. MHSRIP.

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  25. Some road signs are illegal even if they are there. The size and colur of the road signs is stipulated by law. One cannot just pick up a piece of cardboard paper and write with charcoal ‘STOP’ MEN WORKING AHEAD! and hope that is a road sign. Nope! That is illegal. Even road works are done without the health and safety of the workers at heart!
    And I believe that something must be done about the surreptitious and clandestine use of speed traps in Zambia.

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  26. The late Henry Mtonga instituted the road ‘Reflective Triangles’ while he was Road Traffic Commisssioner in the 70’s. Some accidents are caused by broken down vehicles on the highway with no reflective triangles deployed. All you see is the environmentally unfriendly denuded tree branches on the road, which have dried up in the heat of the day and are not visible at night. No one impounds such dangerous vehicles and arrest the owners for endangering lives. Charcoal trucks are notorious for this! There are no highway police patrols as in the days of the late Elisha Banda! All the police cars & motor cycles are busy escorting the president to here and there!

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  27. Some of you people live in the West. It scares me to think taht you accept in this day and age to be treated without respect. It is not illegal in Zambia to be out on the street at any time of night or day. People party, attend funerals weddings and respond to emergencies and should do so any time of the day or night. Police has a duty to protect life and property and the very people who are out doing what needs to be done. These so called ‘officers’ need to be taught that people have rights. They are wasting tax payers money harrasing inocent people leaving crimals (out there with money to bribe) free to comit crimes and disturbe the peace. Someting is wrong with Afriaca (YOU and MYSELF)

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    • I certainly agree. Why do people just talk and moan about things that they have the power and right to change! It is like Zambians enjoy seeing corruption and abuse of power. Is it like the British weather? Something to talk about? The state will compensate anyone who proves wrongful imprisonment and malicious prosecution.

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  28. Similarly, I have heard cases of s.e.x.ual harassment of women by bosses in Zambia and no one does anything about it. Harassment includes: 1. unwelcome comments about the way you look, 2. indecent remarks which you find offensive, 3. outright requests for s.e.x or s.e.x.ual favours.4. Any other behaviour that makes you feel intimidated or humiliated. Tell the perpetrator that you don’t like what they are doing. Tell someone about it. Record all incidents, including where and when and witnesses, how you responded and how you felt. That is evidence in court. Zambian women, don’t take it lying down! Kulibe ati ‘banifuna ba boss.’

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  29. But the good news I read today was the arrest of the Head of Choma Nursing school for breech of Public Health Act. Oh! that really thrilled me! It was like a breath of fresh air! At last the message is getting through. I recommend promotion for those public health inspectors and insignia of The Order of the Eagle for that service. Oh! Praise the LORD for such workers!

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  30. Welcome to the real world, Mr. Ngwenya. These things don’t only happen in Zed, even in the western world, people are incacerated and penalised for crimes they never committed. It’s just by the grace of God that most of us are walking in freedom.

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    • Incarceration and penalisation for crimes they never committed is a miscarriage of justice but not abuse of power. in the developed world you are incarcerated on the balance of the evidence before the courts and not by the whim of a randy or starving, underpaid police officer. What Mr Ngwenya is talking about is the later.

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  31. Government should set a commission of enqiury to establish why the case of ZCCM houses sold to miners took over ten years to be disposed off and punish politicians who have obstructed justice.

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    • This is correct and long overdue. But I believe Kafupi is the main perpetrator of this crime. So, if this case comes up, it will take donkey years to be sorted out. What I call ‘snails pace’

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  32. The action can work both ways; a) To protect us from marauding criminals, b) To protect the person loitering from possible attacks from thugs. In olden days the police would drive you to the address you claim to be your home and prove that. But then the police did not know the color of money

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