The violence that the ruling Patriotic Front party is unleashing on opposition parties is exposing an underlying and very serious failure to appreciate the value and tenets of Liberal Democracy.
The PF did not come into power through violence. They won elections after campaigning through the media which operated freely on the premise of democracy that allowed the existence of competing parties. PF President Michael Sata was neither harassed nor harangued as he appeared on radio stations across the length and breadth of the country.
The model of Liberal Democracy that Zambia has embraced demand that the people are liberated from constraints and are enabled with freedom to participate in the fashioning and modeling of their present and future.
In other words, Zambians were freed or liberated from the oppressive rule of colonialism to a status of freedom and empowerment to exercise their inalienable rights as free citizens.
Therefore democracy has meant freedom from oppression to freedom to exercise rights.
In this respect freedom to exercise rights is organized in very clear channels, central to which is the concept of representation. Leaders are elected into power over clearly defined periods of time, after which they must renew their mandate on the basis of their performance. The caveat to this rule is that those in minority, who do not form Government and therefore in minority, will have all their rights protected.
The very concept of universal suffrage granting citizens the right to participate in the selection of the leadership, gives each citizen a right that must be exercised in total freedom.
This vote would be useless if it did not entail a choice between alternatives. In other words the right to vote would be a total nonsense if there were no choices to be made.
Since our choices are limited to parties and independent individuals standing as independents, it means that these structures must be respected as the vessels that deliver the people’s choice.
The Patriotic Front must therefore accept that the free vote delivered them into office and may in 2016 allow them to continue, or may indeed decide on a different party or independents to run their Government.
Zambians must be allowed to compare between the policies of the ruling party and what else is on offer from the other contending parties.
The attempt to stop this comparison by unleashing violence on the alternative is a savage violation of the principle of liberal democracy.
In this the 21st century effective means of communication have been devised. These include radio, television, print media and more recently social media. Of these the ruling party has an almost commanding presence through public media which cuts across the various modes of communication.
Very little room is left to communicate for those not in power. These are the limited private owned channels which are now being threatened either by physical violence or indeed by commercial strangulation through denial of advertising or commercial support.
It will be very sad if the PF plants and sustains the seed that threatens losers of election. Winners and losers must co-exist in a democracy where the quality of ideas rather than the level of violence will determine the winners.