Columnists Features

Stakeholders key to conducting violence-free election

Police spokesperson Esther Katongo.

IN THE face of the forth-coming elections, there have been a lot of accusing fingers pointing in all directions. All these fingers point to who the cause of a certain action is, more so political violence.
The indaba called by the Republican President and attended by 18 senior members of political parties is commendable. Each electoral stakeholder should now take an introspection to check where things had been going wrong and find ways of correcting the situation.
What is expected of political parties?
Each political party, as rightly observed during the indaba, has internal structures that can see to it that peace is upheld. To achieve this, authorities in different party structures – thus beginning from the grassroots up to the top-most – should genuinely condemn violence. This calls for respect for other people’s choices rather than coercing them to follow what an individual person wants them to believe in. It is their choice, therefore, all must respect it. Political parties should spell out the do’s and don’ts to their subjects. A cadre follows a certain direction and it is this same direction that should prudently be given. It is therefore imperative that clear and precise instructions are given to subordinates rather than being double-tongued. In instances where political parties have security structures, let these structures be helpful to law enforcement officers and not be a source of anarchy.
The Zambia Police Service is an institution mandated to enforce the law to all people irrespective of political affiliation. This is the reason why we are expected to stay away from partisan politics. Siding with individual political parties compromises professionalism in fair enforcement of law. We are therefore called upon to be impartial in all our dealings. We should look at every political player with the same eye. We have received a lot of accusations, especially in the administering of the Public Order Act, where we have been accused of segregation. We have also received accusations that we are of divided loyalties. As much as we may not dispute the fact that there are some elements of officers who would want to take sides politically, this scenario does not represent the position of the entire police service. Each and every police officer has a supervisor. It is therefore the duty of supervisors to see to it that officers under their charge act professionally in policing election-related activities as well as in performing any other duty. Where people feel an officer has acted unprofessionally, they should report them to their respective supervisors. The police high command has time and again reiterated the institutional commitment to applying the Public Order Act fairly to all political players. Where political parties feel aggrieved in this sense, they should always approach respective regulating officers so that an amicable solution is found as opposed to taking to the streets. As we approach the campaign period, regulating officers should engage all political parties in their respective areas and discuss possible ways of reducing confrontations. This can be achieved through submission of campaign calendars to avoid clashing. Let us learn to engage one another in instances where we seem to have differences. Dialogue is vital in all situations where there may be divergent views. Reckless statements showered on the police may not be good for the security of this country, to which we all belong.
Being the first line of defence, the media should be the promoters of peace rather than of anarchy. From time immemorial, audiences perceive whatever is communicated through the media as truth and they believe it without doubt. This, therefore, calls for the media to be wary of whatever information is passed to their respective audiences to avoid giving false information to their publics. People from the media fraternity should therefore guard against peddling false information for the sake of having a scoop as this may be a source of mayhem in the country. I have personally been listening to a lot of phone-in programmes on various radio stations where I have heard moderators abandoning their roles of moderating and taking up the position of a discussant, allowing and influencing hate speech. This may not be good for our country at all. The media should be mindful that their audiences are of different backgrounds and choices. In this election year, the media should not be seen taking sides but ensure to fight a just cause; that of promoting violence-free elections.
All electoral stakeholders have a role to play in conducting violence-free elections. They must not blame their wrong on others. Let us all not behave like footballers from opposing sides who both raise their hands when there is a foul play. As Zambia Police, we are ready to police the forth-coming election just as we have done in the past and we anticipate a violence-free election. It is said that united we stand, divided we fall.
The author is Zambia Police Assistant Public Relations Officer.

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