THE political violence that has occurred in some parts of the country in the runup to by-elections is a dent on the country’s democratic credentials.
It is sad that the country’s politics, especially before elections, continues to be marred in violence.
Activists across the political divide fail to realise that politics is but an exchange and competition of ideas about how the country should be governed.
Political parties and their members instead of marketing their manifestoes target their opponents and literary try to eliminate them from the race.
We implore the political parties to heed the advice from the Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) which has appealed for violent-free campaigns.
SACCORD has expressed concern with the reported acts of political violence and clashes by alleged ruling United Party for National Development (UPND) cadres together with Socialist Party (SP) counterparts in the on-going campaigns for the local government elections in Serenje and other localities.
Voters want to listen to development messages from the political contestants particularly about the high cost of living and rising joblessness in the country.
They want to hear from the candidates and their parties what strategies they have to deal with these problems that is affecting their lives.
But in an environment in which debate fails in favour of physical confrontations, the electorate is left in ignorance and in most cases loses interest in taking part in the elections.
Yet, the over riding interest of the political players should be to encourage as many people as possible to be active participants in the electoral process and strengthen the country’s democracy.
SACCORD executive director Bornface Cheembo says Zambia just recently held the Summit for Democracy where the nation’s democracy was celebrated and these reported acts of political violence go contrary to the spirit of democracy where tolerance and peaceful co-existence are supposed to be the norm as opposed to violence.
“Therefore, we appeal for de-escalation and restraint on the part of both the ruling UPND and opposition political parties as the continuation of politics of violence only seeks to discredit the good democratic credentials that the country has built over the years.
The country cannot afford to promote a culture of intolerance that was the norm prior to the August 12, 2021 tripartite elections.
As Mr Cheembo noted, it is important for all the political players to refrain from violence.
We also agree with SACCORD that the Zambia Police Service must be professional and not be seen to be favouring one political party.
It does not augur well as has been reported in Serenje that police during the recent clashes between UPND and SP cadres arrested those who were under attack as opposed to the perpetrators.
The police command ought to realise that they are key stakeholders in promoting democracy in the country and the conduct of officers on the ground must be above board.
We note that the Patriotic Front has complained against the conduct of the Zambia Police to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) after they were forced to abort their campaign activites in Chililabombwe’s Chitimukulu Ward.
The PF has accused the UNPD and the Zambia Police of frustrating their campaigns in Chililabombwe and have written a complaint letter to the ECZ informing the commission of the events, including threats of violence at Lubengele’s St Pius Catholic Church where some of its leaders had gone to worship over the weekend.
We do not think the police can fail to carry out their mandate if they apply themselves and act as honest brokers.