Now that the dust has settled over Thursday’s local government by-elections, stakeholders must take stock of the violence that characterised the campaign period.
At stake were seats in the local councils in Serenje, Lupososhi and Chililabombwe. All the seats were scooped by the ruling United Party for National Development (UPND),
In the run up to the election day violent incidents were reported particularly in Serenje and Chililabombwe involving cadres from the UPND, the Socialist Party and the Patriotic Front.
It is important that political players take it upon themselves to ensure that elections at what ever level do not dejenerate into violence.
Violence defeats the whole purpose of ensuring that people exercise their democratic right to choose leaders of their choice in a peaceful manner.
If anything, many eligible voters are in fact forced to stay away from the voting booths for fear of being caught up in the crossfire among the contending parties.
We thus call not only the political parties, but the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Zambia Police Service to take stock on how the by-elections were held as well as investigate the violent incidents that were reported.
Serenje reported the worst form of violence in which suspected UPND cadres were said to have attacked their rivals from the Socialist Party.
We note that the Socialist Party leader, Dr Fred M’membe is being investigated for allegedly shooting a UPND cadre.
Of concern to the nation is that the fracas in Solwezi took place at a police station where the Socialist Party cadres had gone to report.
In Chililabombwe, UPND cadres were also reported to have tried to attack PF’s Bowman Lusambo and other leaders as they attended Mass at a Catholic Church.
Mr Lusambo was however whisked away from the church premises when some UPND cadres were spotted around.
These are incidents that the ECZ and the Police ought to investigate not just to ensure that the culprits are taken to task but also to draw lessons for the future.
Zambia has a proud record of holding peaceful national elections since independence in which power has changed hands without bloodshed.
This is a legacy that must be protected by all political players working with the relevant authorities to ensure that democratic tenets are upheld.
Thus, reports that some PF polling agents in the Chitimukulu local government by-election in Chililabombwe were on Thursday allegedly intimidated and physically abused, while others were expelled from polling stations by suspected UPND cadres in full view of police officers must be investigated.
They should not be dismissed as mere propaganda, especially when Cabinet Ministers are seen in the company of political hooligans.
As Linda Kasonde’s Chapter One Foundation notes, political violence robs citizens of being active participarnts in the affairs of their country.
Certainly, this is not the Zambia that anyone wants.
An honest and transparent review of Thursday’s by-elections is therefore a must for political violence has no place in the country.
Let’s grow democracy and peaceful co-existence.