Editor's Comment

Deal thoroughly with violent cadres

WITH just about two weeks before Zambians decide on their political leadership, it is expected that tension and anxiety will be heightened.  There is, however, no justification for a rise in physical confrontation.
This concern by the key political players resulted in the signing of peace pacts. This commitment to curb or stop violence is good, but what would be better is the actualisation of this pledge.
To some extent, there is relative peace, but there are still some hotspots that are a concern and must be dealt with quickly and decisively.
Evidence of violence is reflected in a Human Rights Commission (HRC) report which says 18 of such cases were recorded in just five days (July 19-23).
These clashes, it is said, were between the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and the major opposition, the United Party for National Development (UPND).
The 18 cases imply a physical confrontation by cadres. But violence comes in many forms – physical, verbal and the ripping of rivals’ campaign posters.
Violence may be as a result of provocation or an unprovoked attack on rivals. Whatever the trigger, this must be avoided. It can be stopped with more commitment, especially directives to cadres by respective political leaders.
For instance, one of the most recent acts of political violence was in Ikeleng’i where UPND cadres attacked their PF rivals and extended this brutality to a journalist. Further, they damaged a police motor vehicle at a police station.
Now, surely, even if one is provoked, as they claim they were, what is the point in beating a journalist or damaging public property? If such cadres are admonished by their leaders, this kind of violence could ease or stop altogether.
Unfortunately, what we often hear are attempts to justify an indefensible crime.
Even when cadres are arrested and charged, rarely, if at all, do we see culprits being fined or jailed. Insufficient, if any, examples of punishment are being set for perpetrators of violence.
Presenting people who perpetrate violence to courts of law is non-negotiable as it can help deter others.
In the few days remaining before the polls, we hope that every voter will feel that they are safe to not only go about their daily business, but to also go to vote on August 12.
While the political party leaders have a big role to play in this regard, we also look up to the police to effectively douse any hotspot.
Notably, and understandably so, the police have generally been lenient on those that threaten peace in Zambia’s various communities.
The police, with due respect to them, have been largely civil in conformity to their mandate of being a service entity. But as Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja has noted, some stakeholders interpret this as a weakness.
The Police has to prove that it is strong, but of course within the limits of its authority. This is to ensure that peace prevails in this elections period and beyond.
The political parties know what the law says vis-a-vis the electoral code, so there should no longer be any excuse for breaking the law.
The conflict management committees should be on top of their game by counselling political players and parties. Players found consistently breaching the Electoral Code of Conduct should be reported to ECZ headquarters for punishment.
ECZ is empowered by law to take action against erring parties or candidates just like it did recently when it imposed a ban on the PF and UPND from campaigning in Lusaka, Mpulungu, Namwala and Mbala.
Violence can no longer be tolerated because it has human, economic, and social costs.

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