Editor's Comment

Sanitise politics

AS THE general elections draw nearer, German Ambassador to Zambia Anne Wagner-Mitchell has urged political party leaders to be examples of peace by discouraging their members from engaging in violence.
Dr Wagner-Mitchell said, and rightly so, that it is the task of political party leaders to demonstrate to their followers that there is no place for violence in a political process such as an election.
We could not agree more with Dr Wagner-Mitchell on the obligation of political party leaders to bring to an end violence, which has engulfed our politics in the recent past.
As we approach the general elections, it is deeply worrying that political tension has been building up, and if politicians do not put in place deliberate measures to defuse it, the country risks being thrown into turmoil.
Our politics, instead of being a battle of ideologies, has been reduced to a physical battle of fists, words and even guns.
We have had situations where people have been injured and, in most unfortunate instances, killed during political campaigns or elections.
Some politicians have become experts at spitting venomous words at their opponents.
These are politicians who have mastered the art of mudslinging and hate speech. Their vocabulary is full of hurtful words notwithstanding their potential to put the country on flames.
As the Bible rightly puts it, words have power to build and destroy depending on how they are used.
Rwanda will always be an apt example of how destructive words can be. In Rwanda, the 1994 genocide, which claimed 800,000 lives, started as a result of hate speech.
With such examples in place, it would be folly of our country, which has successfully branded itself as a haven peace, to fall into a similar pit due to carelessness of some politicians and some media houses.
As rightly noted by the ambassador, the responsibility to nip violence in the bud lies squarely on the shoulders of political leaders, and particularly of the two biggest political parties – Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development UPND. This is because political violence is mostly perpetrated by their cadres.
Given that these political cadres are answerable to party structures, we expect the leadership in these political parties to censure them in an event that they engaged in violence.
We expect political leaders to both publicly and privately denounce political violence.
They should make it very clear that they do not condone violence and anyone found engaging in this vice will be dealt with accordingly.
President Edgar Lungu has time and again warned cadres that they will not hide behind the name of the party if they commit any offence.
We need to hear more of such messages from all political leaders, and consistently so.
Ahead of the elections, political leaders should also take it upon themselves to empower cadres with their party ideologies and manifestos for them to become effective campaign agents.
If cadres are ignorant of the ideologies of a party, they have nothing to offer apart from violence, which seems to be the case now.
Political leaders should change the culture of violence that has been entrenched among cadres over the years and introduce a civilised and progressive culture of debating ideologies.
Instead of arming cadres with machetes and other such weapons, political leaders should empower them with knowledge to make meaningful contribution to the political landscape.
Whatever it takes, we expect political leaders to take leadership and set the tone of peace, unity and civility before, during and after the elections.
We only have one country, which we cannot afford to set on fire. We must all take responsibility and politicians must lead the way.

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