When fame saves you from detention


Strange things can happen to any one of us anytime as TIMOTHY KAMBILIMA found out when he was erroneously thought to be a photojournalist practising his trade at the wrong time and rubbed the police up the wrong way. Read on…

ONE Seneca the younger once said, “The great thing is to know when to speak and when to keep quiet.”
The incident or story I am about to narrate happened to me in May 2014. I have been reflecting on this for over a year now.
In the cool month of May 2014 I’d travelled to Kitwe to write my third year semester one examinations with the Zambian Open University.
Though the paper was tough that day, I was very optimistic that I had passed it.
Since I had another paper the following day, I did not waste time discussing how the paper was with colleagues; instead I quickly rushed to Nakadoli Market by jumping on a taxi that was going into town.


Around 12:30 hours I was in town and hiked a Noah bus that was going to Luanshya.
“Lelo ba traffic nabakalipa” (the traffic police are not brooking any nonsense today) the driver was heard telling one of the passengers as we approached the check point at Luangwa.
The police officer stopped the driver and after a few minutes the journey to Luanshya continued.
One woman passenger said, “Ba driver, you said today the police are tough, but why have we passed through (without any challenge)?” The driver said nothing, but just laughed much to the amusement of all the passengers.
As the bus entered the road to Luanshya the driver stopped to go and help his colleague who had a tyre puncture and within five or so minutes the problem was solved and we hit the road once again.
At Baluba turn off market, one passenger asked the driver to stop so that she could buy tomatoes.
The driver almost refused, but I reminded him that he had just stopped to help his fellow driver without excusing himself from us.
“Young man, be fair,” I pleaded as I got approval from the other passengers.
The driver reluctantly stopped and said with a hint of mild sarcasm, “We have lawyers here.” I didn’t say anything at that point, but my heart was glad that justice had been done.
The Bible clearly says, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
Soon after the woman had bought the tomatoes, we continued with our journey and every one was mute as if we were put in a deep freezer.
As for me, my mind was focused on the next day’s examination paper.
After a place called Blind Centre which is known to everyone who has lived in Luanshya, the driver just said “Oh! My God!” I didn’t realise what he meant until I saw a truck and a Luanshya traffic police Hilux vehicle parked a few meters from where we were.
The driver was told to stop and all passengers ordered to disembark the Noah bus.
I suspected and it was confirmed that the offence the driver had committed was pirating.
We were then told to look for alternative transport.
Meanwhile, there was some kind of fracas between the truck driver and the traffic officers.
I wanted to check what time it was on my Nokia phone.
What a mistake I’d made! A female police traffic officer came to me and asked what I was doing with the phone, a piece of paper and a pen.
“You are the people who (like) taking pictures of traffic police officers,” she accused me.
Before I could finish explaining that I was merely checking the time, another officer came and asked what the matter was.
The female officer told him that I was taking pictures of the fracas between the police and the truck driver!
“Let’s just take him to the police station,” suggested the male officer.
I was ordered to jump in the back of the infamous Hilux vehicle together with another female officer.
Believe you me, I was shocked and mused to myself, “this is how innocent people are taken by law enforcement officers?”
When we reached town centre I heard a voice of a man from afar shouting, “Mr TK!”
But because of the high speed, I did not have the chance to even have a glimpse of that person, let alone the direction where the voice was coming from.
In no time, we were at Luanshya Central Police traffic section.
There, in the office, I was given a seat together with traffic offenders who were either paying fines or getting back their car keys after paying the penalties.
The woman who seemed to be the supervisor asked the officers what offence I had committed and, without batting their eyelids, they told her that, “He was taking pictures of traffic officers and a truck driver!”
To my surprise, what did the ‘boss’ say?
“Take him to the cells!”
It was at that point that I spoke. I asked if it was fine to be put in cells without getting my personal details or checking for evidence of photos or videos on my cell phone.
I further challenged them to explain whether it was fair for them to lock me up before they had heard my side of the story.
But, thank God! The woman in charge gave me the opportunity to speak.
After explaining and showing them my university identity card and where I work, the superior said, “So you are Mr Timothy Kambilima?
I have heard so much about you since the time you were in Chililabombwe.” The officer apologised to me over the incident and I was told to go, to the obvious embarrassment and shame of my “captors.”
Now several questions boggled my mind: was I released because of being known, because of my ‘fame’ or I had no case? Anyway, like I said in my preamble the cardinal point is to know when to speak and when to keep quiet. My cell phone had plenty of important numbers, including those of police officers I knew and I could have easily called one of them on my way to the police station, but I decided to remain quiet until the right time. I urge police officers to have concrete evidence before rushing people to cells because in the end it costs the state colossal sums of money in compensations for unlawful detention.
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