Analysis: CHARLES CHISALA
THE Zambia Police Service should be commended for rising to the occasion by opening an inquiry into the alleged savage assault of a defenceless young female teacher by suspected United Party for National Development (UPND) cadres in Sinazongwe, Southern Province.
A video showing a mob of men and women dressed in the UPNDâ€™s trademark red regalia savaging the hapless woman has been circulating on social media and has been published in the print media in the last few days.
In the video, which has since gone viral, a woman in a white T-shirt and yellow cap is seen pulling the victim, Pamela Chama, a teacher, while others take turns in battering her.
A man can be seen raising a big stick above his head ready to strike her.
It is obvious that the woman suffered a savage beating.
While the nation is yet to get a confirmation from the police on the veracity of the video, it is commendable that the security wing is making frantic efforts to find the victim and interview her.
Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja last weekend told the nation that the Zambia Police Service is trying to find Ms Chama and get it from the horseâ€™s mouth.
This has somehow assuaged the public anger the video initially drew.
What is alarming, though, is the perception that has been created that Ms Chama was not necessarily attacked because of wearing a PF campaign T-shirt in a UPND stronghold, but because she bore a Bemba surname and was allegedly pleading for mercy in Bemba.
Minister of Information and Broadcasting Services and chief government spokesperson Chishimba Kambwili and PF national youth chairman Stephen Kampyongo have rightly warned the UPND to be careful with the uncivil and dangerous politics it is trying to impose on Zambia.
Dr Kambwili and Mr Kampyongo said separately that the UPND members and their leaders should accept the fact that as there are Bembas in Southern Province there are also Tongas living and working in Bemba- speaking provinces.
The onus is on the UPNDâ€™s top leadership to assure the nation that Pamela was not beaten because of her Bemba surname and being a suspected PF supporter.
The condemnation of the violence by UPND president Hakainde Hichilema has come a bit too late and too weak to deter his cadres. The nation is seething at the violence.
Stakeholders have repeatedly expressed alarm that the language and tone of public statements by UPND leaders have the potential to incite their cadres to be aggressive towards their political rivals.
Just a few days ago the partyâ€™s spokesperson Charles Kakoma was quoted by a private tabloid warning of chaos should the PF try to rig next weekâ€™s general elections.
The interception in Livingstone of Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) trucks is just one example of the threat such statements are posing to peace.
As usual Mr Kakoma did not explain how the PF would rig the elections or what the role of his partyâ€™s electoral agents and monitors would be.
Such brinksmanship is dangerous. What will stop UPND cadres consistently feeding on such hate menu from attacking anyone wearing PF regalia or driving an ECZ vehicle as a legitimate target, especially in the opposition partyâ€™s strongholds?
One only hopes that the video is a hoax, for if it is proved to be true it could have far-reaching ramifications.
It is not a secret that the PF is still enjoying unassailable support in its traditional strongholds of Lusaka, Copperbelt, Luapula, Northern and Muchinga provinces.
The alliance between the MMD and the PF has also turned Eastern and Central provinces into defacto PF strongholds bringing to seven the number of regions under its undisputed dominance out of Zambiaâ€™s 10 provinces.
But the ruling party has not turned these regions into no-go areas for the UPND and other opposition parties, let alone other tribes.
Zambians from different provinces have been living in harmony regardless of their ethnicity in the spirit of â€˜One Zambia one nationâ€™, and no political party should be allowed to threaten this social cohesion.
What would happen if the PF started abusing its awesome strength by doing in its many strongholds what the UPND is doing in Southern Province?
This is the question the UPND leadership and their followers should courageously answer.
Meanwhile, let the police dig out the truth about Pamela Chama.
The author is Zambia Daily Mail deputy news editor.
Analysis: CHARLES CHISALA