By Isaac Mwanza
Police bond is, among other reasons, usually denied to people who are flight risks but the courts would not deny bail for bailable offences unless a compelling reason has been provided to show the person will jump bail.
When His Excellency, President Hichilema announced, during his first press briefing, that denying people bond or bail will be a thing of the past in this regime, the public felt he made a serious policy pronouncement and the country was going to see some significant change with the manner suspects are handled.
But does the President really know that the opposite of what he wanted to see for Zambia is happening? From the look of things, the ACC is now competing with and trying to outdo the ZP in making it difficult for people, especially for those who are politically aligned, to get bonded. They are all in that period of impress the new administration or prove a point that we are the good guys to the new dawn?
For the police, the practice of denying people bond can be understood: since colonial times, police officers have worked under instructions from politicians and the training of junior officers who daily interface with the public is very short as compared to training ACC and DEC undergo.
An example of a politically motivated instruction and charging was the arrest of Mr Hichilema himself. We know from that leaked audio how the then Police IG was instructed to arrest and given some leads as to what the charge should be.
The Commissions are nevertheless involved in investigating white collar crimes among those who allegedly wear white collars. Usually, people they investigate, like Chitotela and Lusambo, are not flight risks. They have lots of investments made and appear determined to defend their investment or the country benefits if everything is seized and forfeited to the State.
There was thus no need for ACC to be dramatic by going to Kawambwa to ferry Chitotela or to deny both Chitotela and Bowman bond if they really have a good case to make in court. ACC simply used old terror-instilling methods which the President is against.
What ACC must be more concerned with is not a temporal appeasement of politicians and a section of the public but the end game of each case. My instincts tells me that the ACC feels that when they lock up people, deny them bond or make it hard for suspects who have been given bail to be released, they are seen to be working, regardless of how the cases will end up.
Already, we have been reading on how a good number of accused persons have shown a lack of confidence in the new administrative arrangement at Subcourt where few selected or preferred magistrates have lined up to try them. Then you have these manoeuvres by the Commission of making it hard for persons whom the Court has granted bail to go out. This is not good for the impartiality of the criminal justice system.
I think a distinction must be seen in the manner Commissions handle suspects and in the manner the police have been and continue to do so. For the police, it is really understandable, looking at their history and training.
Today, President Bally just need to undertake a random visit to any police holding cells and see how many people are incarcerated, denied bond and indefinitely languish in congested holding cells and prisons on minor offences without even smelling a court room.
It appears detentions without bond has become a uniform tool for LEAs to help politicians punish each other.