The violence that erupted in Southern Province after the August 11 elections must be thoroughly investigated to determine the cause and ensure that those who instigated it are brought to book.
There was nothing spontaneous about that violence, especially the mayhem caused in Namwala in which houses were torched and many residents displaced in what many have described as ethnic cleansing.
That is why the announcement of a commission of Inquiry made by President Edgar Lungu is most welcome.
We however believe that the investigation should go beyond the violence and seek to investigate the circumstances in which the area received above average voter turnout.
While the rest of the country averaged a little below 50 percent of voter turnout, Namwala and other constituencies in Southern Province registered well above 80 percent with a corresponding vote for opposition UPND. Circumstances that informed this phenomenon must be established.
There is a relationship between the turnout and the anger that erupted after results showed that the UPND had actually lost the election, contrary to expectation.
The question therefore is; what expectation was built in the minds of the voters in the region and on what basis was this expectation built?
It is a simple and very basic principle of statistics to study and identify the cause of deviance in a normal population. When standard deviance is significant, it is usually explained by a factor.
This factor must be identified for the sake of national unity, peace and harmonious co-existence. We are one country, one people with a common destiny and nothing should be allowed to create division, not even the politicians who promise to secure power to foster group or sectional interest should be allowed to peddle this lie and get away with it.
We know for a fact that due to historical exigencies many “migrant” ethnic groups settled in Southern Province as settler’s recruited labour from other parts of the country to work in various fields. It is for this reason that Nyanja is among the most commonly spoken languages in the area.
For years “foreigners” have taken root and entrenched themselves. Their children and grandchildren know no other home.
Equally many Southerners have moved to other provinces in search of opportunity and in search of new farming opportunities after the decimation of their herds of cattle from animal diseases and climate change which has shifted the rain belt to other provinces.
Intermarriage has united us even further to the extent that no single family in Zambia can boast of a pure pedigree. It is for this reason that the events in Namwala offend.
Firstly the denial of realities on the ground by no other than Chief Mukuni and senior members of the UPND makes very sad reading and poor judgment.
Secondly; the perpetuation of the vice even after exposure, shows an entrenched disposition that can only be explained by a motivation that goes beyond a social phenomenon.
Victims interviewed soon after their attacks reveal that neighbours and close friends with whom they had lived peacefully for many decades had suddenly turned on them.
There is very urgent need to get to the bottom of this wretched situation to avoid its repetition and ensure that our politics should rise above ethnic or tribal consideration.
After all democracy demands that the electorate hold those in power accountable to ensure effective service delivery. This means that parties must be judged by their performance in responding to the social contract rather than other consideration.
The tragedy with tribalism is that it destroys the basis on which liberal democracy is built. Tribalism introduces a blind loyalty that will not allow accountability and scrutiny. Those in power will seek to hide failures in order to perpetuate their hold on power.
In the end people who are ill qualified for jobs will be employed in sensitive positions where they will fail to the detriment of the nation, corruption will be excused and poor performance will be rationalised. In the end the nation will fail.
This must not be allowed in Zambia where meritocracy must be the rule rather than the exception, hence the need for this commission of inquiry that will go to the bottom of the rot.