Zambians shouldn’t be hypocritical; and pretend that this year’s political campaigns for; and after August 11 presidential and general elections, our country will remain peaceful. Unless stringent measures are put in place, it appears political violence will heighten; and we are likely to shed more blood than ever before.
It was first assumed that forming political alliances was one of the ways to avoid presidential re-run; and prevent catastrophic political violence before and after the August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections.
However, how such political pacts are being formed, tribalism, the strong desire for each presidential candidate to be in State House, and the new approach to political violence seem to be threatening Zambia’s peace and stability further.
Three major factors seem to have contributed to such a development. This first one is that it appears political parties who are known for high political violence are the ones who have remained as strong parties to participate in the August, 2016 presidential and general elections.
Secondly, some politicians who are known for designing, mobilising, training and engineering high political violence against other political parties seem to have camped into one of the three or so big parties in the name of political alliances or individual’s support to such parties.
Thirdly, political violence seems to have followed the common tribal voting pattern where only in a province where a political party has its stronghold does it start political violence against other parties in that region.
The latest case studies which should ring bells to all Zambians are the recent Choma and Sinda districts political violence. It appears because UPND has a stronghold in Southern province; it can start political violence there.
Similarly, because PF has strongholds in Eastern and other provinces, it can also initiate political violence like it was in Sinda district.
Now supposed such approaches to initiating political violence of following where one has many supporters continues, how regular will political violence be if all political parties consider such a factor (where a party has a stronghold) in where to commence political violence?
To make matters worse, some political parties and their respective presidential candidates for the August 11, 2016 elections have been quoted in some circles of the media that, firstly, they would ensure that they remove President Lungu from State House by voting only for their presidential candidate in that region; and that secondly, opposition parties will stop at nothing to ensure that President Edgar Chagwa Lungu is out of State House after the stated elections.
Firstly, doesn’t the first sentence constitute a form of tribalism? Doesn’t ‘will stop at nothing’ include using any means available; including political violence to remove President Lungu and PF from government? Are those who are saying so the ones who have more designers, mobilisers, trainers and engineers of political violence?
In addition to more regional violence we are likely to experience, such questions remind one of what Eastern province’s Senior Chief Madzimawe said that if other tribes don’t want to vote for any other political candidate; except one from their own tribe, how will such people come to other regions to campaign that other regions should vote for a political candidate from a region that practices tribalism?
For political violence, this implies that if a political party initiates and is too violent in a region where it has a stronghold, other parties will also initiate; and will be too violent against the same party where they have strongholds.
And suppose a political party assumes that it has a stronghold in Lusaka or in Copperbelt province, when in fact not; and instigates political violence in such a region, to what extent can such violence go in terms of bloodshed if both parties have strong holds in such provinces?
And since each presidential candidate to garner 50 per cent plus one vote, he or she should campaign heavily in all the ten (10) provinces, each political party might be forced to go and campaign even in regions where they don’t have strongholds. But to what extent will such a desire to campaign in areas where a party doesn’t have a stronghold impact of the frequency and level of political violence in this country under the current approach to political violence?
One can argue that Zambia Police (ZP) officers are there to quell such political violence. No! In the past, in some cases, press reports revealed that some political cadres over power some police officers guarding political rallies. And recently, it was reported that some UPND political cadres clobbered two police officers in Choma district.
As a result, we learn that, in some cases, police officers just watch some political cadres hammering each others in whatever way because some police officers fear for their lives in such political violence. Therefore, putting Zambians in the refuge of ZP officers only is an effort in futile. In addition to ZP officers, we need to find other means to control political violence.
Figuring out that each political party will continue initiating political violence where they have strongholds, police officers might easily be outnumbered and overpowered. This being the case, civil strife can break loose not only in that region but also almost in the whole country!
Therefore, while forming political alliances was one of the ways of curbing political violence before and after August 11 presidential and general elections, the way such pacts have been established, the new political violence approach and the seemingly ‘powerless’ police are critical factors to consider to maintain peace and stability in Mother Zambia.
One can ask: ‘Do those political leaders who promote political violence have families, children and relatives who they think might not be affected by the civil strife they engineer?
How fast can a man, woman and a youth run to evade civil strife? Can our aged, disabled, pregnant women and our children run this fast for them to dodge war?’
So, one can see that while each of us is excited and anxious to see who our next republican president will be in such a competitive political elections, individually and collectively, we should also be thinking about how our lives will be before and after such elections. Failure to do so is as good as not having the August 11, 2016 presidential and general election.
It’s against this background that one can support Inspect General (IG) of ZP, Kakoma Kanganja in his suggestion to recruit about 3, 000 police officers before August, 2016 presidential and general elections.
But how strong will such police recruits be compared to the existing ZP officers for such recruits to effectively contribute to vanquishing political violence?
While some political leaders have talked against political violence before, little or nothing much has been seen from their respective political cadres respecting such orders from their respective high authorities against political violence.
Such disobedience and insubordination from cadres prove that senior political leaders in each political party either have no control over their cadres or are hypocritical in speaking against political violence.
Since it appears there is little or nothing political leaders and ZP can do to curtail such political violence, political parties, parliament and governance stakeholders should work with Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to enact a law which bars any political party proved to be violent from participating in elections. After such a piece of legislation, a task force of highly independent members from various local and international governance and human rights related stakeholders should be constituted to monitor political parties participating in August 11, 2016 presidential and general elections’ involvement in political violence. Any party that is proved to be violent in political campaigns should be disqualified from participating in such elections.
Among others, such a law and such a task force can ensure that Zambia’s peace and stability will be sustained as no political party would want to be disqualified from such ‘appetizing’; but highly politically volatile presidential and general elections.
Political parties should always remember that effective political campaigns are about persuasion. Persuade the electorate to appreciate how you will facilitate socio-economic development process with them. Political persuasion; and not political violence, can sustain peace and stability in Mother Zambia.