When people say Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front is a violent political party, it is not out OF malice. It’s a very violent organisation with the most ruthless individuals. And this starts with Edgar himself. Edgar believes in crushing others like a tonne of bricks. Isn’t this violence?
Today, Harry Kalaba’s supporters within the same Patriotic Front are being assaulted! Why? And Harry is right in his reaction that “political violence belongs to the animal kingdom”.
No one now, not even Edgar himself, tries to deny the violent nature of the Patriotic Front and its politics. It can’t be denied. It can’t be concealed. It’s too naked for all to see it for what it is.
The other day, it was them violently attacking Harry’s supporters and yesterday, it was them assaulting NDC supporters. What is there to dispute or deny? And those who are usually very quick to accuse and condemn others even when they are acting in self-defence are today very quiet! Why? It’s because they know very well that their cadres are in the wrong. But they are not ready to condemn them because that is what they want from them – violence towards their political opponents.
There have been confessions of violence from Patriotic Front cadres. A few weeks ago, Copperbelt Patriotic Front cadres calling themselves ‘commanders’ confirmed the party’s political violence. There has been no reaction or response from Edgar and his minions about these confessions or revelations. Why? It’s because they are true and undeniable. These are revelations that could chill anyone seriously dedicated to peace, human rights and the rule of law. These cadres are not engaging in this violence on their own – they are being sent to attack political opponents and are rewarded for being violent.
This senseless political violence instigated by some leaders in the Patriotic Front in pursuit of narrow political agendas would deeply disturb anyone with a clear conscience, a sense of justice.
And what is the goal or purpose of this violence?
There’s need for us to understand that the essence of this political violence is to induce great fear in society so that no one talks about misdeeds, corruption and other abuses of the Patriotic Front leadership.
But as we have stated before, political violence is a sign of eroding democracy and morally and otherwise weakening leadership. Patriotic Front leaders and cadres seem to believe they need to use violence in order to intimidate their populace into acquiescence. The blame for violent political acts lies with the people who commit them, and with those who explicitly and seriously call for violence. But the rush to score partisan points by using incidents of violence to weaken, frustrate and discredit your political opponents is cheap and dishonest.
Every political cause will inevitably attract some zealots who take strong words too far. It’s fair to blame a political party for the violence it inspires if – and only if – its leaders actually, seriously urge and celebrate and perpetrate violent acts. And Patriotic Front leaders do. They reward cadres for being violent, brutish. And the way to restore peace is not just to condemn the criminal acts, but to restore faith in the efficacy of democratic institutions – to show that violence and bigotry won’t be tolerated. The police helplessly watch Patriotic Front cadres’ violence. They are afraid to arrest and prosecute Patriotic Front cadres. They have allowed them to become a law unto themselves.
But their political opponents, in the face of all this, are expected to remain peaceful and turn the other cheek! In this way, non-violence becomes a cudgel against the victims when violent people in power require those without power to adopt it as the sole way of reacting to their violence.
Indeed, violence is not the answer to that chill. But in this country, democracy and non-violence don’t seem to be working too well, either. It seems to us that the real political task in a society such as ours is to criticise the workings of institutions, which appear to be both neutral and independent; to criticise and attack them in such a manner that the political violence which has always exercised itself obscurely through them will be unmasked, so that one can fight against them.
What is amazing is that this violence is instigated and carried by people calling themselves Christians, God-fearing, leaders whose followers claim they were anointed by God.
Pope Francis said, “The true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the denunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible.”
It is said that washing ones hands off the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.
Violence won’t save the Patriotic Front from the impending doom! It will actually accelerate and make it worse.