That this Government condones corruption and criminality is no longer an issue of debate.
What is worrying however is the extreme extent to which this impunity has been taken. There are or perhaps there were bodies lying in the Kabwe General Hospital mortuary believed to have been victims of brutalization by the Prison service. The Government has persistently denied the story.
However the statement by the Minister of Home Affairs Edgar Lungu challenging relatives with evidence to prove foul play and possible deaths at the Prison is cold, insensitive callous and an extreme show of indifference that is totally unacceptable.
The Minister is quoted to have challenged people alleging that about 10 inmates at Mukobeko maximum prison died after beatings from trainee prison warders to move a motion of judicial review to set up an inquest to establish the truth concerning the death of the prisoners. He maintained that no single prisoner died out of the alleged beatings and that those making the allegations should cause the courts of law to set up an inquest so that the truth could be established.
He then quickly added that government had no money at the moment to set up a tribunal as demanded by some sectors of society the challenging civil society who had the capacity to go ahead and establish a tribunal.
This indifference can be classified in the same category as the demand by the Acting Chief Justice who has refused to constitute a Tribunal in the misconduct of Minister of Tourism Sylvia Masebo unless the complainant former Minister of Transport William Harrington produces sworn affidavits. This not what the law says. It is indeed a task that is beyond the remit provided by the law.
Our colleagues from Muvi TV have been to Kabwe. They have produced names and have seen bodies of individuals brought to the Kabwe Hospital Mortuary by Mukobeko Prison authorities, and one would assume that the most responsible response by Government would have been to undertake a serious investigation including a postmortem to determine the identity of the bodies and cause of death.
This is not too much to ask of a Government that claims to respect the rule of law and human rights.
By definition an inquest is a judicial inquiry undertaken to determine the cause of a person’s death. Usually inquests are conducted upon deaths which are suspicious, due to violence, involving law enforcement officials, or of persons held in state custody
It is not clear whether public outcry can give cause to an inquest. If not we believe that public interest must be able to call for an Inquiry or indeed interest in a matter that has raised sufficient suspicion.
Those bodies in the Kabwe mortuary tell a very serious story, one which must result in prosecution for murder. If they have been buried an exhumation is called for to establish the case of death and determine whoever was responsible.
In a democracy like ours, public interest counts for something. Human life can not be lost without explanation or justification, not even for a condemned prisoner.
John Stuart Mill has provided a very clear definition of public interests by stating that “human happiness, even one’s own, is in general more successfully pursued by acting on general rules, than by measuring the consequences of each act; and this is still more the case with the general happiness, since any other plan would not only leave everybody uncertain what to expect, but would involve perpetual quarrelling”
Sadly our country is developing a very sad culture of “impunity” where thieves and scoundrels who should be ashamed of themselves are setting standards of conduct by pontificating on matter moral and legal.
We find ourselves in a situation where criminals are chief prosecutors and plunderers are chief Government propagandists.
The result is that people are having difficulty determining what is right and what is wrong and indeed who to believe.
There is a very distinct fear that the Prison authorities in conjunction with senior Government officials are covering up possible loss of life and abuses at the Mukobeko Maximum Prison.
In the last two days the country has witnessed massive joint operations in which the Police, Army, Zambia Air force and Police have moved prisoners from Kabwe to various destinations.
Relatives asking for their kin at Mukobeko have been turned away as the Prison has been barricaded from access by any persons other than officials.
No independent verification has been allowed and now with the movement of prisoners the crime scene has been tampered with effectively precluding the possibility of getting any detailed information about what really transpired at the Prison.
Maybe there is nothing to worry, but then there might be a cause of real worry.
The only way this issue can be resolved is by a very transparent inquiry that should involve credible people.