WOODLANDS police station was yesterday turned into a battlefield between the police and the United Party for National Development (UPND) cadres in which several people were arrested during a stampede that erupted after police arrested UPND vice president Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba.
He was arrested and charged with the offence of unlawful drilling after being interviewed by the police over allegations that he was training a militia at his building in Lusaka. He was later given police bond and allowed to go home.
If successfully convicted, unlawful drilling carries a sentence of seven years in jail
The UPND cadres had assembled at the police station as early as 08:00 hours to give solidarity to GBM who had been summoned by the police to help them with investigations into the alleged unlawful drilling of his patty youths.
Mr Mwamba arrived at Woodlands police station at about 09:45 hours in the company of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema, second vice president Canisius Banda, Chongwe Patriotic Front (PF) member of Parliament Sylvia Masebo, former high commissioner to Nigeria Major Richard Kachingwe and Patrick Mecheleka, the former Lubanseshi independent MP.
There was heavy police presence in full riot gear who kept vigil and prevented the cadres from approaching the police station but hell broke loose after it was announced that Mr Mwamba had been arrested and denied bond.
The cadres, who had all this time been restricted to the Woodlands Pick and Pay car park, suddenly surged towards the police station and police were forced to fire teargas canisters to stop them from advancing.
One tear gas canister was fired at the cadres and one of them picked it up and threw it back at the police and then there was sporadic firing of tear gas in all directions.
Many onlookers and shoppers were caught in the chilly breeze of tear gas including journalists who ran for their lives after getting choked. The entire Woodlands shopping complex was covered in a shroud of smoke and many shoppers, passers-by and workers were choked as business came to a standstill.
Earlier, Mr Hichilema and Dr Banda caused consternation at the police station after they demanded to join Mr Mwamba in the interrogation room. Police told Mr Hichilema that he was not the one who had been summoned and could not therefore enter the interviewing room but the UPND leader and his team of lawyers threatened to walk away from the police station.
And while the interrogation was going on, Mr Mwamba’s lawyers kept on going in and out of the interviewing room and were seen holding consultations within the police premises.
The lawyers, led by Jack Mwimbu, included Gilbert Phiri, Keith Mweemba, Martha Mushipe, Sydeny Mulengeshi, Lanco Chikata, Paul Katupisha and Cheelo Mwiinga.
On three occasions, Mr Mwamba’s legal team was seen coming out of the interrogation room and consulted among themselves and at about 21:40 hours, it was announced that Mr Mwamba had been arrested.
Mr Mwamba was led to Woodlands police cells by tight security while he kept on flashing the UPND symbol.
It was then that the UPND cadres attempted to overrun the police station but police responded with tear gas; a number of cadres were arrested.
All the shops in the Woodlands neighborhood were closed but order was quickly restored after teargas canisters were indiscriminately fired which also choked a number of police officers.
While the cadres were scampering for safety, some police officers were also seen running away from their positions.
According to the Penal Code, Unlawful drilling is under section 66 and states;
(1) Any Person who
(a) Without the permission of the President, trains or drills any other person to the use of arms or the practice of military exercises, movements, or evolutions; or
(b) Is present at any meeting or assembly of persons, held without the permission of the President, for the purpose of training or drilling any other persons to the use of arms or the practice of military exercises, movements, or evolutions; is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for seven years.
(2) Any person who, at any meeting or assembly held without the permission of the President is trained or drilled to the use of arms or the practice of military exercises, movements, or evolutions, or who is present at any such meeting or assembly for the purpose of being trained or drilled, is guilty of a misdemeanor.
(As amended by G.N No. 303 of 1994 and S.I No. 63 of 1964)