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Issue-based politics way to go

AS THE Patriotic Front (PF) yesterday set the ball rolling for their campaigns, we urge all political parties taking part in the forthcoming elections to exercise tolerance and stick to issues when drumming up support. We echo advice by Chief Mphamba of the Tumbuka that politicians and their supporters should desist from politics of insults during campaigns.
As a matter of fact, politicians must follow their manifestos to give the electorate an opportunity to make informed decisions.
In most cases, politics of character assassination lead to violence during campaigns and voters miss the chance of listening to developmental ideas. President Edgar Lungu was right when he said yesterday in his address to party supporters during the launch of the PF campaigns that campaigns should be based on explaining ideas on development in the party manifesto.
Issue-based campaigns are what people have been craving for to understand what each political party has to better improve their livelihoods. We implore all candidates in the August 12 polls to sell themselves with civility and avoid attacking other people’s personalities. Inflammatory statements should be avoided to ensure that peace is maintained across the country during campaigns. Violence, as witnessed in the past elections, has resulted in voter apathy as people fear to venture out to cast their ballots. Violence distorts the meaning of democracy as voters are robbed of the chance to vote for candidates of their choice. We commend the PF for setting the example to denounce mudslinging during campaigns and we would like to see other political parties take a cue from that stance. Political parties also need to be cautious with the way they conduct their campaigns amidst COVID-19 as stated by President Lungu. Politicising the pandemic will only compound the situation as we are already under siege by a new COVID-19 variant from India. We commend President Lungu for directing the police to ensure that all political players adhere to the laid down COVID-19 protocols. In so doing, the police must be impartial, but firm, so that no one cries foul during campaigns, which in itself might lead to violence. The police should firmly deal with those who won’t follow laid down health guidelines as political gatherings are potential super-spreaders of COVID-19. The Church still has a big role to play within their congregations to rally messages of peace using the Bible even as politicians propagate ideas from their manifestos during their campaigns. As it has already been said, the clergy should not take sides during political campaigns because doing so would divide the Church, which has a diverse following from different political parties. We also urge citizens to debate politics during this time in a civil manner without hard feelings about other people’s views. It is not only politicians who create political tension, but the followers and sympathisers can worsen the situation by acting in an unruly manner towards those holding opposing views to theirs. Bars and other drinking places tend to be potentially politically charged during this time, but the onus is on patrons to socialise peacefully. Elections come and go and it will be beneficial to the nation if Zambia continues to live up to its billing as a peaceful country. Let no violence divert people’s attention from listening to issue-based messages from their political parties. We want to emphasise also that leaders from all sides of the political spectrum should tone down on hate messages but convince people about what they hope to do when they are elected on August 12, 2021.