Nothing is gained from discourtesy and lack of civility in politics.
If anything it takes away from well intentioned dialogue and instead leaves anger, recrimination and unfortunately a lasting sense of bitterness, which militates against constructive engagement.
It is heartwarming that seemingly bitter foes as Edgar Lungu and Miles Sampa of the Patriotic Front could reconcile and put their differences aside. This reconciliation was possible because the differences were civil and no unkind and uncharitable words were exchanged even at the height of differences.
This is as it should be because family differences are not new. They are as old as human kind and indeed after every war the parties must sit together to craft a settlement. The more acrimonious the difference the greater the effort required.
Conflict resolution is a matter that is taken very seriously in African culture It involves dialogue through proxies and peers. This is a value we should not lose even when we foreign media practitioners who may not understand the significance of Ubuntu.
That is why we very concerned by the growing shrill discourse which at times is downright uncouth and uncivilized. It is all the more annoying when those being intemperate and insulting to our Zambian leaders are foreigners who lack cultural values.
If for no other reason, civility must be observed to safeguard the cordial political atmosphere in which we can debate and indeed exchange robust barbs. When words are spoken out of turn there is always a mutual obligation for contrition.
Elections are an event and not a lifestyle. That is why Zambian cultures discourages uncouth language or indeed conduct that is intended to undermine and destabilize the environmental equilibrium.
Our foreigners working in the elections may not like Edgar Lungu or indeed Hakainde Hichilema but that is no reason to be intemperate. They represent the interests of thousands of Zambians who look up to them, undermining their esteem is insulting the very people that they represent. Our political leaders have a duty and responsibility to advise their media teams to use appropriate language which does not provoke outrage and revulsion, because such language has the potential of creating serious differences that could create a breach of the peace.
Richard Dreyfuss, a fairly iconic actor has said, “Civility is not saying negative or harsh things. It is not the absence of critical analysis. It is the manner in which we are sharing this territorial freedom of political discussion. If our discourse is yelled and screamed and interrupted and patronized, that’s uncivil.”
And President Obama , while addressing university students during campaigns, also urged people to “temper our passions, and . . . be wary of self-righteousness . . . to remain open, and curious, and eager to continue the moral and spiritual debate . . . within our vast democracy.” The President further said “This doubt should remind us to persuade through reason, through an appeal whenever we can to universal rather than parochial principles, and most of all through an abiding example of good works, charity, kindness, and service that moves hearts and minds.”