Electoral violence impediment to growth

LUCY Lumbe.

Analysis: LUCY LUMBE
ELECTIONS whether general, parliamentary or local government are important in a democracy because they provide registered voters with an opportunity to choose representatives to attend to their plight.
Prior to any election day, a period is given to political parties to hold campaigns in which candidates sell themselves to the electorate with the view of winning their vote.
It is, however, unfortunate that instead of political parties maximising this opportunity by selling their manifestos to the electorate, they are now using this time to outdo each through violence.
This was the case in the recently held Sesheke Parliamentary by-election which was characterised by ferocious scenes of clashes between the two major political parties.
Members of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) had clashes which resulted into ugly scenes of mayhem.
During the campaign, they were enigmatic incidents of bees and lightning attacking the ruling Patriotic Front camp.
Sesheke district residents were caught up in the violent attacks between the two parties.
Business was brought to a standstill with many market stalls being destroyed during the feud.
Residents were forced to put their daily businesses on hold for fear of losing their lives which subsequently affected their daily incomes.
President Edgar Lungu who was in the area to drum up support for the PF candidate raised concern at the violent acts and called for an end to a fractious relationship between the two political parties.
President Lungu said the political party members should emulate him and UPND president Hakainde Hichilema who have never engaged in violence.
In view of the growing trend of electoral violence, one is left to wonder what it will take to register in the minds of political cadres that violence has no benefits but only consequences.
What is more saddening is that electoral violence is slowly becoming a culture. It is not only Sesheke by-election where violence has been recorded but, several other past elections.
For instance, before and after the 2016 general election, the country experienced numerous acts of electoral violence which prompted President Lungu to appoint a 15-member Commission of Inquiry into voting patterns and electoral violence.
The commission chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Mr Justice Munalula Lisimba was tasked to come up with recommendations on how to prevent the occurrence of violence in future elections.
But even with such interventions, political party members need to ensure that they desist from engaging in violence and fully utilise the campaign period to sell their manifestos.
Popularity should not be gauged by who emerges victorious in a clash or which party has caused more physical damage or injuries to the other.
Suffice to mention that electoral violence is usually perpetuated by individuals who do not think about long term consequences of their actions on the community and the country at large.
Violence brings about destruction of property, loss of lives, loss of businesses and it also negatively affects the image of the country.
A negative image of the country has potential to scare away the much-needed investors, thereby hampering economic growth and development in general.
It is for this reason that political party leaders must take time to educate and sensitise their members to desist from engaging in political violence to enhance development.
A downward performance in economic growth mostly affects the livelihoods of each and every citizen in the country.
If political party members continue on the path of violence, we can be assured that development will continue eluding us.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail correspondent.

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