THE gratuitous violence in Livingstone was totally uncalled for.
Both the police, who unleashed teargas, and taxi drivers who decided to demonstrate and close roads are to blame for the tension and subsequent violence that occurred in the tourist capital.
Although taxi operators claim to have mounted a peaceful demonstration against the new statutory operational charges, the very fact of demonstrating inside the city without appropriate notification was a provocation which could not be countenanced by law enforcement officers.
All public manifestations regardless of character must receive prior notification if for anything to ensure good order and observance of the rule of law. Besides, a demonstration protesting against an increase in licence fees is totally misplaced when it is mounted with the purpose of interrupting traffic and in many respects causing confusion among the innocent citizenry who have little to do with the decision.
The new rates were announced in good time and the appropriate taxi or bus operators should have taken up the matter with the government rather that stage a demonstration that subsequently turned rowdy and endangered peace in the country.
At the same time it is incredible and difficult to understand that police who have presence in town would have allowed this procession to proceed and eventually mature into a full blown riot involving operators and individuals who obviously had criminal intent.
This event shows a lack of vigilance and dereliction of duty on those charged with the responsibility of maintaining peace, law and order.
The indiscriminate discharge of teargas in the city centre also heightened tempers while inconveniencing innocent people caught up in the fracas.
In this age of “tribal tension”, there is need for law enforcement officers to be vigilant, to be sure that criminal elements do not take advantage of situations to cause further confusion, misunderstanding and strife.
In this regard, the riots show a spectacular failure of vigilance which must be condemned in the strongest terms and we recommend that action should be taken against the officers who should have stopped it.
It is sad that increasingly officers are failing to perform their duties in the face of clear criminality such as theft of public property which we have carried in the columns of this newspaper.
More and more the country is witnessing impunity of the highest levels possible because officers charged with specific duties and responsibilities appear compromised and therefore incapable of rising to their tasks.
This is unacceptable and calls for appropriate action from the highest political levels possible, because ultimately in a democracy it is those political representatives who hold the social contract that stands to account when the system fails.
Public officers will continue to serve for as long as their contracts hold.
Time has come for action.