PALLBEARERS carrying the casket of UPND Munali Constituency chairperson, Grayzer Matapa yesterday dropped and damaged the coffin as they fled from a police cordon at the roundabout near Lusaka High Court.
The burial of Mr Matapa was yesterday characterised with drama when mourners carried the casket on their shoulders in a procession on foot from St Ann’s funeral parlour on Mumbwa road to the Leopards Hill Memorial Park in Ibex Hill via Independence Avenue.
But as the procession approached the roundabout at Lusaka High Court, the police directed them to use a hearse because carrying a casket in that manner was unlawful and had the potential to spark a riot.
The mourners, however, defied the police directive forcing the law enforcers to fire teargas canisters to disperse them leading the pallbearers to drop and abandon the casket as they scampered for safety in different directions.
The incident caused panic among other road users especially motorists who u-turned for safety and caused traffic jam for some hours on most of the roads entering and leaving the central business district.
However, the police picked up the broken casket and took it to Leopards Hill Memorial Park where it was handed over to the relatives for burial but they faced resistance from the mourners and UPND cadres who demanded for a new one.
In the process of altercation between the police and mourners, some mourners stoned the police Land Cruiser that carried the casket and roughed up a senior police officer, a development that forced the driver of the vehicle to speed off to Woodlands Police Station.
The relatives, thereafter, followed the vehicle to the police station to get the body which they did and later proceeded to University Teaching Hospital where they bought another coffin before heading for burial.
Lusaka Province Chief Charity Katanga confirmed the incident in an interview that the procession was unlawful because it had no blessings from the police.
Ms Katanga said the police had no option but to fire tear gas canisters at the mourners because their conduct nearly degenerated into a riot.
She said the police failed to control the mourners as they were outnumbered thus resorting to using tear gas canisters.
The fracas also saw theft of 150 cell phones worth K32,000 from Jacob Phiri, a Lusaka trader who operates Nyangu Filling Station.
She said the cadres removed the ministerial flag on a minister’s vehicle they found on the way to Woodlands Police Station to collect the body.
“We now saw that there was room for us to react, we intercepted them and fired teargas to disperse them to bring law and order. It was at that point that the casket dropped and broke but the police picked it and took it to the burial site,” Ms Katanga said.
Ms Katanga has since warned that police will not tolerate unlawful conduct from any political party especially conduct that cause breach of peace, theft and damage to property.