It is extremely hard to dodge to sound political when commenting on arrest and detention procedure in Zambia.
Early April 2017 the United Party for National Development (UPND) president Hakainde Hichilema was arrested for blocking president Lungu motorcade. He spent 127 days in prison without trial.
Every effort by Zambians to have him released failed. It took the international community to rescue him from prison.
The Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland had to fly to Zambia to come and negotiate the release of Hakainde Hichilema.
Today, it appears the UPND is in the similar situation. Its four senior members have spent days in police custody without any sign of trial.
Like the case with Hakainde Hichilema, individuals and local groups and organizations such as the Human Rights Commission (HRC) are demanding that the arrested individuals be charged or released but in vain. The law is completely being ignored again.
Arresting the four individuals is not the issue. The issue is their prolonged detention. It is almost three weeks without a charge.
The Zambian law requires that a detainee appears before a court within 24 to 48 hours of arrest and be informed of the charges against him or her.
Unfortunately, as clear as it sounds it continues to be the most abused part of the Zambian law. All because of the nature of politics in the country.
There is no other explanation other than politics in play. The arrested UPND members are among the giants of the party. The general election is drawing near and the nominations to contest the upcoming August general election is here.
The prolonged holding of former Local Government minister Ackson Sejani, Choma Mayor Javen Simoloka, Mazabuka Mayor Vincent Lilanda, and Choma businessman Fines Malambo could be a deliberate move by the Patriotic Front (PF) to stop them from filling and being adopted to stand as member of parliaments in their areas of choice in the upcoming August election.
They should be released immediately. Their prolonged holding in police cells is not fair. It shows that the police have no enough evidence to charge them.
This kind of abuse of arrest and detention procedure started with Hakainde Hichilema arrest in 2017. It has now become a common thing. Bails are being denied for no reasons since then. Resulting in detainees, mostly government critics, spending more than 48 hours in custody.
Should the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland fly to Zambia again to come and negotiate the release of former minister Sejani, Mayor Simoloka, Mayor Lilanda, and Choma businessman Fines Malambo?
Something need to be done to stop this. Arrest and detention procedure in the country need reform.
By Venus N Msyani