Although state sponsored reprisals such as arbitrary arrests and lengthy detentions without trial are nothing new against the Barotse, what is different now is that the Zambian security forces can violate all human rights with impunity under their officially increased operational powers.
For the Barotse, this means that anyone they could not arrest before or those previously set free on the widely abused state instrument, Nolle prosequi, are once again a target for fresh arrest and extended detention.
Recent anonymous police sources have warned that any one who was once a subject of police searches that did not yield any criminal finds before, as far back as two or three years, is now a target for arrest on that prior suspicion.
Under the new sweeping powers, the police do not actually have to have any evidence of criminality but could arrest the victims for any such previously held suspicion.
This is no longer rule of law but state terror against perceived political enemies. Barotse people and opposition UPND rank highest on the police witch-hunt.
What is worse, however, is that the Barotse are in most cases deemed to be either self-determination activists or UPND supporters, or even both. Although the two are fundamentally different, it makes Barotse people twice as likely to be affected by Lungu’s emergency rule.
Among the targeted Barotse are those active on media platforms such as face book, twitter and WhatsApp or those with active and ongoing court processes seemingly not proceeding well currently for lack of criminal evidence but the state feels they must be punished nonetheless.
Others targeted are those who may have in the recent past appeared on prominent national and international media discussing Barotseland related matters or those reported to have traveled abroad on Barotseland related missions.
All these may be slapped with various bogus charges ranging from defamation of the president and government leaders to arson, seditious practices or even treason; although the main objective is to merely punish them during this draconian ‘legally’ declared threatened state of emergency.
Ultimately, President Lungu has given himself and his state agents a license to terrorize citizens with divergent views for the next three months or perhaps in perpetuity, and it is doubtful if any Zambian will stand up to him as he now wishes to contentiously impose his rule beyond the constitutional two terms expiring in 2021.
Indeed, many Barotse and Zambians alike must truly be terrified by Lungu’s political witch hunt disguised as a threatened state of emergency.