ON THURSDAY April 4, several Katete residents ran amok, raiding and looting various shops in the main central business district.
The riot, the first of its type in this normally peaceful district, was sparked by the murder of a Katete Day Secondary School pupil. Naomi Daka, 19 was allegedly gang raped and murdered by three men at a bush near the school on March 23, 2013.
Property worth KR2.2 million was looted from the affected shops that include Isusyas, Kavulamungu, Kesons Paris and a Chinese-run shop.
According to Katete district commissioner, Colonel Peter Kunda Kaisa, Daka was killed when she decided to answer the call of nature on her way to the school.
She was found dead the following day.
Although this story has been told from various angles by different people, one of the issues that triggered the riot is the suspicion that this was a ritual murder.
The suspicions, which have been brewing in Katete for a long time, cannot be proved as Naomi's body bore no evidence of a ritual killing in a postmortem done at St Francis Mission Hospital.
When Col Kaisa featured on Radio Maria's Issue of the Week programme on Friday April 5, he was bombarded by queries bordering on the myth of ritual killings.
Responding to callers who wanted to verify reports that some businessmen were found with the deceased's breasts in a cooler box, Col Kaisa said Naomi's body was intact, apart from blood which was found on her private parts.
Eastern Province minister Malozo Sichone who also featured on the same programme told the callers that he was eager to see the people that are allegedly involved in ritual killings and that whoever is going to be found with human body parts would have to face the full wrath of the law.
"All these speculations that Naomi's body parts were found with one businessman are not true. As minister, I would like to see this person who was allegedly found with the private parts. I need this person more than anybody else so that he or she is punished," said Sichone.
Col Kaisa explained that at first, the people that protested at his office on April 2 demanded that all the suspects in the murder be arrested.
He said the protestors were concerned that other suspects were not arrested.
"After this complaint, the officer in-charge went and arrested all the people that were mentioned in this case. The other demand was that they demanded for independent police officers to carry on with the investigations because they seem to have no confidence in the Katete police. After this issue, the police authorities constituted a team independent of Katete police to carry on with investigations," he explained.
He said to his surprise, after addressing the concerns of the earlier protestors, he was informed that there was another group of aggrieved people from Katete Stores who wanted to protest again.
"I went there (Katete Stores) and I told them that we already agreed and that the demands that were pushed to my office had been met. When I spoke to them they seemed to have complied but when I left the place, that's when I was told that there is yet another group that was rioting and looting shops at the stores," said Col. Kaisa.
The rioters fought running battles with a combined team of police and Zambia National Service officers before the riot was quelled.
However, the damage had already been done as rioters had already destroyed property and looted several shops before the security officers arrived.
About 288 people, including some senior rulling Patriotic Front party officials, were rounded up by police.
Over 50 pupils and two security guards from Amaguards were released while the other suspects are facing court proceedings in both Chipata and Katete.
Sichone said the riot could have been avoided had the security wings and other authorities taken precautionary measures as events that led to the riot had been steadily unfolding.
Sichone said he was able to tell from Col Kaisa's explanation that even on the day before the riot, word had already gone round about an impending demonstration.
The situation has returned to normal as security personnel are patrolling Katete Stores to ensure peace and order while affected businessmen have started repairing their shops.
Some businessmen are contemplating leaving Katete but are being assured by the government that proper measures have been put in place to safeguard their interests.
However, if the affected businessmen were to leave, there is fear that Katete would become a ghost town.
Former Eastern Province minister Charles Banda said rioting and looting of shops was not a culture of the province.
Banda expressed fear that such acts could take the district backwards economically.
It is incumbent upon the government, the business community and Katete residents to adequately play their part in ensuring that such disturbances do not show their ugly faces in the town again.
The other versions of the riot will be heard from the suspects themselves in court.