Editor's Comment

Time for politics of ideas


THE United Party for National Development (UPND) will today be looking to increase its parliamentary representation to 92, but to opposition political parties, the Kaumbwe by-election in Petauke provides the first test for the new governing party to prove a level playing field after winning the August 12 general election. The parliamentary by-election in Kaumbwe constituency, which was necessitated by the death of UPND candidate Boniface Khondowe in the run-up to the August 12 elections, has not been without incidences of violence so far. The Socialist Party (SP) and the former governing party, Patriotic Front (PF), have complained of violence against them at the hands of alleged UPND cadres. It is sad to note that there is violence in Kaumbwe when campaigns in other parts of the country where local government, mayoral and council chairperson elections are taking place have been largely peaceful. With regard to the PF, it is not strange that the rivalry with UPND is still as real as it was before and during the August 12 elections. But, although people felt there was everything to die for during the general election, there is nothing to justify the violence which has been reported in Kaumbwe so far.
President Hakainde Hichilema has sounded a warning against political violence drawing on the experiences of previous elections, which is why we get surprised to hear reports that UPND cadres are allegedly behind the attacks. The UPND has an opportunity to change the narrative around elections and the attendant violence in the country, itself having suffered untold misery at the hands of PF. The cadres can choose not to heed President Hichilema’s call for violence-free elections in the country going forward, but they have little choice about remaining loyal to his principles. UPND cadres would play a key role in bringing sanity to the political arena as advocated for by the President in the wake of the party’s protracted fight for justice during PF’s rule. Fixing the dirt the PF left in politics as regards violence starts within the consciences of the cadres so that they are not seen to be doing what they loathed during the previous government. Although the Kaumbwe violence on SP and PF looks like an isolated incident, it presents a test on the UPND’s resolve to sanitise politics in the country. We urge the leadership in UPND to tame the cadres when water is still knee-high because all hope among most citizens is on the party to bring change in every aspect of politics. While the opposition PF is still hurt about the loss during the August 12 elections, UPND cadres must exercise restraint and take advantage of the political power in their hands to avoid politics of vengeance. There is an air of relief in the country which should not be spoiled by a return to the old order as regards political violence because President Hichilema wants sanity in politics. We also urge the PF and the opposition in general to avoid being provocative during today’s elections so that people vote freely. Although the pockets of violence in Kaumbwe have the potential of breeding voter apathy, given the voter fatigue from the last general election, there is a chance for cadres to make amends on the last day and avoid a repeat of the August 12 violence in North-Western Province where a PF official was killed at a polling station on election day. Service to the people should not be at the expense of shedding blood, but politics of ideas and constructive debate will foster participation from the general populace in decision-making.
The Church has prayed for peaceful elections time and again, but the rest remains in the hands of politicians to instil a sense of responsibility in the minds of cadres. We cannot agree more with Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) that deliberate peace-building measures are needed. It is true that calls by high-ranking political leaders to end political violence and the police to play their role have limitations. So let today’s elections remind us of the need to end all forms of violence during elections and foster politics of ideas. We urge voters in Kaumbwe and other parts of the country to turn out in numbers to vote. We wish all those contesting in today’s elections good luck.

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