Last week, the police allegedly warned the public that they would begin to arrest “indecently dressed” people by 1 April 2017. “We at Zambia police are concerned with the dress code of some of our women and men in public. What people do not realise is that indecent exposure is a serious offence which attracts a penalty fee of K2,500 or a 6-month jail sentence,” police spokeswoman Esther Katongo stated. The police continued to list what it considers indecent attires, including leggings, skinny jeans, mini-skirts (any skirt which does not go below the knee), mini-dresses, tight-fitting dresses, ripped jeans, belly-button exposing tops, lace attire and sagging trousers.
The news broke on the Zambian Watchdog, which is renowned for being liberal with the truth, and a closer scrutiny of the directive suggested that this was one of these occasions. The directive appeared to be signed by police spokeswoman Esther Katongo, which in itself was strange, considering its impact, but it was also printed on a letterhead from the police’s Lusaka Division Headquarters, and carried none of the usual official marks, such as a stamp or an internal file number (the article has now been removed from the Zambian Watchdog, but the directive can be studied here).
This week it became obvious that the directive was indeed fake news, produced by the Zambian Watchdog, seemingly to incite the public against the police, and several commentators expressed concern. Even President Lungu got involved. He said the Zambia Information and Communications Technology Authority must ensure that it can monitor social media: “Some people are using social media, especially Facebook, to write letters insinuating that it is government officials issuing certain instructions which government is not aware of,” he said.