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Thursday, 30 August 2012

Reforming the Police Public Complaints Authority

By Chola Mukanga

Government recently signalled its intention to reform the Police Public Complaints Authority (PPCA) picking up some of the crucial issues many stakeholders have flagged up in the past. Ngosa Simbyakula (Home Affairs D. Minister) agrees that the PPCA as currently administered complaints concerning the Zambia Police Service using a weak legal and institutional framework. Its mandate needs to be strengthened.

This is welcome development because the PPCA is in much need of reform. For those not in the know, the PPCA was established in 2003 with the power to investigate complaints from the public against the police as well as injuries or deaths in police custody. [Its website can be found here ] The PPCA submits its findings and recommendations to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), IGP and ACC. It is practically toothless as an oversight mechanism for providing checks and balances. It is in theory meant to act as deterrent to abuse of police power and violation of people's rights. But it does not have the powers to do any of that.

As an institution the PPCA has been a failure. Since its establishment the PPCA has received over 800 complaints, made just 50 rulings and helped dismiss only 13 officers for abuse of authority. Many people continue to lack information on their rights and where and how to seek redress against police brutality. As a result the PPCA has been totally inadequate in acting as a mechanism of keeping trust between people and the police. It has been ineffective in reducing police cruelty, torture and degrading treatment of suspects. In recent years for example, we have seen unrestrained police violence with respect to university students, something that led to the then IGP to apologise. Indeed in commenting on the levels of police brutality and the debate on compensation, Charles Mulipi aptly noted that if all people abused by the police asked for compensation, our country would be bankrupt. Such is the level of police brutality.

The problem of course is the PPCA lack of powers to ensure that the police comply with their recommendations. On many occasions IGPs have refused to comply with the recommendations of the PPCA and the Authority has no power to enforce them. This weakness means that there's no systematic or effective framework for ensuring that police officers responsible will be brought to justice. This failure creates the perception in the minds of the public and police officers themselves that the police enjoy immunity from investigations that might lead to the punishment of misconduct. Providing more human rights training to police officers, raising the educational requirements for new officers or other reforms cannot make up for the lack of an impartial, systematic and effective investigation into the violation of human rights by police officers.

Something drastic is therefore needed. An Independent Police Complaints Authority (IPCA) should be established to ensure proper investigation of crimes and other violations by members of the Police Service. An independent authority would receive citizens’ complaints, investigate them and take criminal and/or disciplinary action against police officers found to have perpetrated violations. To be truly effective, such an authority should have full powers under law to deal effectively with complaints, including enabling powers to order the release of persons held unlawfully and powers to ensure immediate access to police dockets, statements and post mortem examination reports. These are the sorts of reforms we hope Government will now address properly.


  1. dear sir i need your help
    nasla chemical nasla group company in makine lusaka nam owner. mr.nasir mr.hanif
    mobile number0955278692 0966768696
    there my 1 year salary and 6 passport is not giving me just force me. becoz i am poor man
    not only me so many people give that problem
    there in company management in side no zambia people just all the family people
    there worker salary too small permanent labour too small and weekly too much
    no respect worker no care worker just force every one
    there making lotion cream and jelly but danger for the health becoz no auto machinery just manual mixer machine filling machine
    pleas visit there and help to labour
    i hope ur help me

  2. Why don't you investigate the murder case of Mr Mervin Kaufman, the South African business man residing in Zambia, who was mutilated and brutally murdered in November 2012 in Chingola, Zambia. The murder suspects were released after the DPP filed a "nolle prosequi". Sure there was lots of CORRUPTION and BRIBERY involved in that matter?! Would like to find out who was involved in this release and corrupt circumstances. Someone steals a duvet from his neighbour, and gets jail-time with hard labour. Yet, a human being is mutilated and battered to death, but the suspects walk free? And no further investigation from the authorities to establish who did this to another human being? Someone needs to explain!!
    What does one need to do to expose the utterly corrupt legal system in Zambia?? A human being was murdered (battered to death) and mutilated, yet the murderer is walking the streets of Zambia freely, bribing police officers, the DPP and other government officials. Why is there no PROPER investigation into the murder of the victim - why is the suspected murderer(s) not arrested and put on trial to testify. This is a matter that now needs to be escalated to BBC - So that the world can see the corruption going on in Zambia. There is more than overwhelming evidence in this case, yet the legal procedure is so corrupt, and bribery is preventing justice to prevail, as it should. Where does one make an official complaint, and request you to assist us?


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