Editor's Comment

Gun culture should stop

THE violence in Kaoma in Western Province, where political parties are campaigning ahead of the council chairperson by-election this Thursday, is deeply disturbing.
We are saddened that a precious life has been lost and a number of people have been injured when Patriotic Front and United Party for National Development cadres clashed.
According to police spokesperson Esther Katongo, police officers were attending a briefing at Kaoma Trades School by the Electoral Commission of Zambia when they received information that there were some gunshots heard and that officers were immediately dispatched to verify the information.
To understand the context better, we will reproduce what Ms Katongo said in a press statement yesterday. She writes:
“When officers reached the scene, they found a man in his 40s lying on the ground in a pool of blood, with a ladies’ handbag by his side. Officers picked him and rushed him to Kaoma District Hospital for medical attention but later died in the process of evacuating him to UTH [University Teaching]”.
“Initial investigations revealed that suspected UPND cadres who were on a UPND-branded motor vehicle had attacked people believed to be Patriotic Front cadres who were in a white Toyota Hilux using stones which led to one of the occupants, identified as female Namataa Lubasi Brumo, aged 51, of Yeta Compound, also a district PF chairlady of Mongu, to jump off the motor vehicle in an attempt to run to safety. It was reported that Namataa was followed by an unknown suspected UPND cadre only identified by his nickname Gadhafi, who gave chase and grabbed her hand bag but Namataa managed to run to safety.
It is alleged that one occupant on a white Toyota Hilux pulled out a pistol and shot at Gadhafi, who died in the process of evacuation to UTH.”
It is also reported that some people were injured and vehicles damaged during the campaigns on Sunday.
This is deeply worrying. If people can injure and kill themselves over a council chairperson by-election in a remote part of the country, we are left to wonder what to expect during high-stake elections in 2021.
Zambia cannot sit idly by and watch a culture of violence being entrenched in our politics.
Today, violence has become synonymous with elections. It is common for elections, even at the lowest level, to be marred with violence. Memories are still fresh of the Sesheke by-election as one of those marred by disturbing scenes of violence.
It is worrying that cadres are becoming a monster haunting politics. Cadres have assumed so much power such that they can disregard the Electoral Code of Conduct and the law in general with impunity.
These cadres patronise election areas armed with firearms, machetes and knives, among other dangerous weapons.
Some of these cadres are driving or being ferried in expensive cars to campaign areas.
The questions that beg answers are: Who funds and arms these cadres? Who empowers them to act with so much authority and impunity?
The known truth is that cadres are members of political parties and some of them well-known. As such, we expect political leaders to take responsibility.
They must tame this monster rearing its ugly head in our politics before it is too late.
President Edgar Lungu has said time and again that politics is not worth dying for.
If even the Presidency is not worth dying for, why should life be lost over a council election?
Surely, this is a mockery to the sanctity and value of life. No election or politician, no matter how big, is worth dying for. This is for the simple reason that life is priceless and its value embedded in its irreplaceable nature.
Cadres must be made to understand the value of life and that it cannot be taken by anyone who has no ability to give it back.
Time and again, we hear politicians pledging peaceful campaigns and signing peace pacts. It is, however, sad that very little impact is being made to stop violence.
We implore all political leaders to be decisive on this matter.
While it is commendable that the situation in Kaoma has normalised as police officers are patrolling the area, we expect them to be more proactive in future to avoid loss of life.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia should also arise and enforce the electoral code by suspending candidates or political parties perpetuating violence.
If Zambia fails to get rid of the emerging trend of gang culture in politics, posterity will judge the country harshly.

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