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Chilanga campaigns should be free of violence

THE Chilanga parliamentary by-election set for June 5 is a test not only of the popularity of contesting political parties but the maturity of Zambia’s democracy.The ruling Patriotic Front, United Party for National Development, National Restoration Party and United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia have thrown their hat in the ring.
The seat, one of the 156 in the country’s legislature – National Assembly – was held by Keith Mukata, who lost it on account of conviction in a murder case.
The Chilanga by-election follows local government by-elections in which the PF won 12 while the UPND got the remaining four last month. These elections were not without unwanted elements, however.
There were pockets of violence that in some cases resulted in injury, such as the ones in Chinsali, Mansa and Monze. Such acts of violence place doubt on the credibility of the election and dent the image of the country.
Zambia is one of Africa’s model democracies where people’s freedom of expression is unmatched; where the rule of law is observed and where general freedoms are unimpeded. The people’s will expressed through the ballot has always been respected, leading to change of government without the risk of losing the peace the country has enjoyed since 1964.
That is why all political parties participating in the Chilanga by-election should not wilfully distort that picture of Zambia being the epitome of democracy on the continent and beyond.
Violence should have no place in Chilanga. The parties must exercise care and maximum restraint as they go about their campaigns. They should know that politics is broadly an expression and competition of ideas rather than vulgarity and brawn. There is a legal platform for those that want to demonstrate their physical power – boxing ring.
People of Chilanga are looking for good service delivery in the social sector such as education and health; they are looking for infrastructure and a conducive environment to grow their business; they are looking for inspiration. That is the politics that Zambia wants.
President Lungu has used every platform available to try and bring substance and decency to politics. He has urged the Church to encourage men and women of integrity and high moral standing to join politics. Indeed, politics must be Christianised because it is about service to the people.
It should, therefore, be of great concern to members of the public to hear inference of violence. UPND Mazabuka Member of Parliament Gary Nkombo said his party is ready to “use force if need be. If it means using a little bit of force to teach them how things are done, we are ready,” he said in reference to the PF and the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
Such sentiments are a recipe for violence, especially when they come from a leader whom people look up to. It is not just wise but a mark of good leadership to encourage civility and love in any situation.
Leaders should not downgrade the country to lawlessness and be the first ones to cry wolf when they are asked to account. The force being talked about is at variance with the ideals of democracy.
Let the Chilanga parliamentary by-election campaigns be free of violence as that would enhance the country’s democratic credentials.