A COMBINED team of over 60 heavily armed officers from Zambia Army, the Intelligence and Zambia Police ransacked Sylvia Masebo’s family residence in Ibex Hill, causing extensive damage to property, and left occupants, including a five-year-old child, traumatised.
A check at the residence found a visibly upset Masebo wondering what her family had done to receive such treatment from the state.
And Masebo’s niece Serah Nkata, who lives at the property, told police that the mob of officers whom she first thought were robbers ransacked the property, which also houses Morning Side School, around 03:00 hours.
“First we heard banging at the gate, which they eventually broke down, and then we heard them in the yard. I peeped with my husband, only to see men with guns. I did not know if they were police because the ones I could see were not in uniform and they did not declare that they were police,” Nkata said.
“They started demanding that we open up and that is when I phoned aunty (Masebo). I told her armed robbers were outside and trying to force themselves into the house. She told me to get the children and hide in one of the rooms as she tried to get hold of police.”
She said the ‘intruders’ then started banging against the wall, and continued forcing the door open.
“They finally pulled down the grill door and broke down both the kitchen door and lounge door. Some broke the windows to [a 14-year-old’s] bedroom and others managed to remove the kitchen louvres. I could hear others by the cottage also bringing it down,” Nkata said.
She said it was only after the agents gained access to the house that she noticed that some of the ‘intruders’ were actually intelligence officers and army personnel.
“I had clasped my children thinking this was our death and we could do nothing but just pray. They [agents] did not tell us what they wanted but just started bringing down doors like they were looking for something. They pushed me aside, and threw me into one of the rooms with my children,” a frightened Nkata said.
“They were over 40 people in the house, all armed, some in army uniform and others in plain clothes. They asked me why I had not been opening but I was too frightened to respond and that was when they pushed me aside and started breaking down even the inside doors.”
She said when the officers saw her husband, they grabbed him and said, “Ehe, ni uyu. Simuona avala uniform (It’s this one. Can’t you see he is wearing uniform?).”
Nkata said her husband was wearing a red and white shirt and from the conversation she overhead, the intruders thought it was UPND regalia.
“They dragged my husband, asking him where the rest of his friends were and clearly, he had no idea what they were talking about. They searched the freezers, pantry and even the ceiling. They got into the ceiling looking for whatever or whoever. But my poor children, they were so scared because they could see that even I was scared. While all this was happening, some more officers surrounded the house,” said Nkata.
And Masebo’s nephew, Kebby Kashinamilunda, who lives in the neighbourhood, said when the matter was reported to police, he heard the officers receiving instructions on radio message not to intervene.
“I came to the police about 04:00 hours and found some officers. When I quickly narrated to them, they mobilised in a bid to follow me, but just as we were about to go, the female officer alerted her fellow officers on radio and that was when another instruction came through saying, ‘Stand down. We are not criminals, we are officers from Special Division on special operation’,” said Kashinamilunda.
“Then I rushed to the residence and I was shocked to find an entire battalion. There was a DAF truck, two Landcruisers – one police and one military, with military police seated in it, [and] five small vehicles, I think Corollas and three police station wagons.”
Meanwhile, Masebo said she could not believe what had happened.
“Look at what they have done to my family residence! They have literally broken down everything. What is going on in this country? Where are we going now? What has my family done to deserve this?” she lamented.
In receiving the statement, Simon Mwansa Kapwepwe Police Station officer in charge Chimfwembe apologised for not having escorted Kashinamilunda when he reported the matter.
He said he was not working during the operation but revealed that his office had earlier on not known about the operation being carried out by their fellow officers.
Chimfwembe said statements would be recorded from people at the scene and investigations would be launched.