Editor's Comment

We are all Shabantu

HH, Lungu (right)

WHILE the nation eagerly awaits the political players to sit and dialogue in order to narrow their differences, the atmosphere being created in some sectors of our society casts a dark shadow on this process.
A case in point is the reported beating and stripping of a woman belonging to the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) in Monze by political cadres suspected to belong to the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND).
Brenda Shabantu was on Friday allegedly beaten and left naked by suspected UPND supporters in Mwaanza Ward, where PF members were campaigning.
While this incident may seem isolated and remote to some, the fact that it happened in Zambia must get all of us concerned.
Obviously this matter is still under investigation by police, and we cannot say for certain who attacked Ms Shabantu and why, but that is inconsequential.
The fact that a woman was beaten and stripped during a political campaign should raise enough concern in all of us.
And we should not be more concerned just because Ms Shabantu belongs to the ruling party. No.
Ms Shabantu could well have been a UPND member, she could well have been MMD or even NAREP. It does not matter. Ms Shabantu is a Zambian who was exercising her democratic right to freely assemble and freely express her views.
You, reading this, could well have been Ms Shabantu because you are Zambian.
Yes. Stripped of her political regalia, stripped to her skin, what remained of Ms Shabantu was a dehumanised and violated Zambian woman and not a PF cadre.
Not to belittle the local government elections billed to take place in this area, we wonder why the stakes should be raised so high as to warrant such violent behaviour.
What happened to debate? What happened to political reasoning? What happened to sloganeering and political songs?
Have all these been replaced by belligerence?
Yes, our independence from our oppressors was won with bloodied hands, but not so our democracy. It was won through reasoning, through the ballot.
Why should we be so divided by political opinion that we cannot see our inalienable and God-given commonality – that we are one people belonging to one nation?
This is not the spirit of dialogue – a winner takes all spirit or them against us posture cannot bring about peace.
It has been repeatedly said that Zambia is bigger than any one individual or indeed any one political party. The only thing worth shedding blood for is our peace and freedom, and that our forefathers already did.
The only winners who must emerge out of any political process are the Zambian people, who deserve good leadership from the people they have put in office.
If this is the mentality and attitude that shall follow to the dialogue table, then we might as well stop the process.
One cannot come to the negotiating table extending a hand of friendship while holding a knife with the other.
The onus is on the leaders of all parties to preach peace and tolerance among their supporters. Our call is to all political players regardless of their differences to bury the hatchet before we can see any meaningful dialogue.
Even in wartime – whether between nations or between a government and rebels – the guns must first fall silent before any negotiation can take place. There must be a cease fire.
How can we sit down together if we are so averse to each other?
The environment we are creating is not conducive for any dialogue to take place.
We must all work to defuse the political tension – whether real or merely perceived – for us to exist in harmony.
The sectarianism that is beginning to gnaw at the fabric of our democracy will in the end only destroy our beautiful nation. We must stop it now.

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