By PETER SICHALI AND BENNIE MUNDANDO
THE gun-wielding “Mpika Commando” who was nabbed by the police is a clear prima facie case of an indication that society is not safe, hence the need to trace the person who sold those guns to him, Canisius Banda has demanded.
Dr Banda said in an interview yesterday that while Zambians enjoyed freedom to bear firearms, a schedule existed of the types of arms a civilian was allowed to own and that in addition, such ownership followed a rigorous and thorough vetting and clearance process by the police service, through which many were disqualified.
Dr. Banda, who is a development activist, said the ownership of firearms was intensely regulated in Zambia and that the state of affairs must remain so and called for a healthy debate for the total outlawing of firearms by civilians in Zambia.
He however expressed shock that a businessman in Mpika could be found with guns not prescribed to be in possession of a civilian and military uniform and has called for a thorough investigation on how such found themselves in the hands of one not authorised.
“Anywhere in the world, each firearm, for example, can be traced to both the vendor and purchaser/owner. The case of the ‘Mpika Commando’ is one of grave and immediate concern. This is a clear prima facie case of banditry. When such citizens exist in our midst it follows then that the communities are not safe.
“Where did this Mpika young man get his arms from? His source must be sought and also face criminal charges. In Zambia, it is illegal for a civilian to possess military uniforms. Where did this citizen obtain his from? It is under such circumstances that criminals posing as servicemen rob citizens. How then is a citizen to tell a genuine military officer from a fake one? Many citizens are not equipped for such differentiation,” Dr. Banda said.
He called for periodic targeted clean-ups, like the case was during the UNIP era to defend public safety and appealed to Government to secretly reward the whistleblower.
“Was the Mpika malefactor about to embark on a guerrilla upheaval? All these and many other questions that seek national security ought to be asked. How many other Zambians today are also in possession of such illegal weaponry? Where are they? And what are their plans/intentions?
“Criminals anywhere have wives, husbands, brothers, sisters or friends. At any time, there is always someone who is aware of a criminal. Criminals are in our homes. By being silent about those we know we too abet criminality, itself a crime. Handsomely but privately rewarding whistle blowers will therefore encourage citizens to come forward. These days in Zambia the word ‘businessman or businesswoman’ has become a euphemism or camouflage for ‘a criminal,’ he said.