Editor's Comment

Stop violence


SPORADIC but bloody incidents of political violence must be nipped in the bud before they spiral out of control. This can best be done by taking the culprits to book – prosecuting them and, if their crimes are grave, jailing them. There is absolute need for examples being set of bad elements of society. For as long as no-one is punished through the courts of law for their violence, perpetrators are bound to get bolder and the victims could change their defence tactics. As some would say, the best form of defence is attack. This should not be allowed to happen. The biggest onus is on the police. There was a collective sigh of relief from law-abiding citizens when the police announced that their officers have been deployed across the country to enforce law and order. This sigh of relief could soon be replaced by doubt if the violence is not brought into check to allow citizens to go about their social, economic and, especially, political activities peacefully. As a democratic country, Zambia provides its citizens with the privilege of choosing their leaders at ward, mayoral, parliamentary and Presidential levels through the ballot box. The run-up to the general elections is preceded by a 90-day period of campaigns, in which political parties and candidates market themselves to the electorate. These campaigns must be violence-free because they are not hinged on physical strength but power of ideas. Since the start of the campaign for the August 12 elections, there has been general peace but this has been marred by glaring violent clashes. It is these that must be dealt with decisively. Incidents of violence on the Copperbelt, Mandevu Constituency in Lusaka and Mpulungu Constituency in Northern Province highlight the list of this ugly vice. Archbishop of Lusaka Alick Banda says the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) and its alliance are largely behind the violence. Dr Banda says the latest pictures of violence perpetrated by UPND and its alliances are detestable and inhuman. He says this should not be allowed in this age and era. So true. This is because elections are a mechanism which allows citizens to participate in the governance of the country and ultimately have a greater say over how they are governed. It is, therefore, a pity that campaigns in Zambia are now synonymous with violence. There should be no violence during campaigns, on voting day and indeed in the aftermath of the polls. Violence undermines the democratic process, which starts with campaigns and continues on to voting day. Violence is a threat to democracy because it may either interfere with the voters’ free will or indeed scare them from participating, thus disfranchising them. As Archbishop Banda has rightly stated, the forthcoming elections are not the first nor the last in the history of the country, but a periodical event. Therefore, these elections should not be marred by bloodshed. Although sometimes violence is triggered by provocation, those that may feel wronged should never resort to the law of the jungle. They must let civility prevail. This is where the police have to not only be proactive in maintaining peace but also swift in restoring order and prosecuting the culprits. More than enough warnings have been given to those that break the law. Let the law take its course. Now that Archbishop Banda has set the tone, let other church bodies and religious groups be alert and available to offer unfettered counsel. All political parties should listen and abide by Archbishop Banda’s counsel: Let us be civil and respect one another. Indeed, all life is sacred. All lives matter.

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