‘Leaders are benefiting from political violence’

United Prosperous and Peace for Zambia president Charles Chanda says violence will not be curbed as political leaders are the ones benefiting from it.

“The issue of violence cannot be overlooked because the leaders of the political parties are the ones behind the violence. They are the bosses of those violent cadres; therefore, it is important that they put their houses in order because they cannot blame the cadres for that. It is wrong for leaders to use violence so that they can win elections but they do not want to end it because they are benefiting from it, which is very unfortunate. The leaders should instruct their people to refrain from violence,” says Chanda.

It’s not in dispute that our multiparty political dispensation is yet to take root; it’s still battling with political violence which derives its energy and dominance from the army of unemployed young men and women of low literacy.
It can also not be disputed that there’s a negative relationship between youth involvement in political violence, and democratic development in Zambia. Therefore, in our quest for sustainable democratic development in the face of this unending political violence, development of healthy political culture, regular orientation or enlightenment, and detachment of politics from ethnic affiliation is the only sensible panacea we can think of.
For the sustenance of human rights, consistent economic and social development, accountability and good governance in Zambia, democratic governance is an important factor. This is in view of the fact that democracy in its principles and utilitarian value grants equal opportunity, transparency and the value for human rights and freedom.

Though philosophical and ideological differences may justify any type of government anywhere in the world, the concept of democracy still prevails in the pursuit for a fair, just and more humane society; it is the governance which undermines dictatorial tendencies and engender national cohesion, national participation and national benefit in our country.
In concept and principle, democratic governance provides our people with the opportunities for advancement and every other thing that ensures their human rights and freedoms thus, if the concept and principles of democracy are adhered to, its fruits should indeed be acceptable to every right thinking person in this country. The abuse of the concept of democracy, which has become the order of the day in Zambia today, has made it irrelevant to the understanding of many people in this country, especially young people. This has made democracy to be now synonymous with political violence, party domination, the germinating ground for corruption and the like.

Multiparty politics is becoming a germinating ground for youth violence to the extent of making thuggery a regular business among the youth and the merchants of death. This is a result of certain factors which have undermined the essence of democracy in the interest of few who cleaved to power by chances and even others who ignore the rules of democracy in the blind support and pursuit of unjustifiable objectives. The youth have become sacrificial lambs for the sustenance of the interests of the bloody political demagogues.
In whichever way or whatever justification for youth involvement in political violence, especially thuggery, the ultimate truth is that such undermines democratic development and youth’s chances of political growth.
One of our most pressing challenges today is how to hold free, fair and peaceful elections. This is important because elections can easily trigger conflict.
Though we often define political violence based on the direct relationship between the violent act and the immediate political incidence, political violence in this country has surfaced from certain unclear channels. Violence has often emanated from long time grievances over the political situation.
Of paramount importance here is that whether violence before, during or after election, the quick and available machinery – thuggery – for the execution of this agenda, are the youth.
While elections – the attribute of the democracy – can generally be more peaceable mechanisms for contesting power, politically motivated violence is threatening this.
Political violence is orchestrated by political elites to curtail the political work of their opponents and intimidate voters. Elections can exacerbate existing tensions.
Political violence is increasingly becoming one of the hallmarks of our political landscape. More so, the youth involvement in such activities makes it more worrisome as they are seen as leaders of tomorrow. No political violence has ever taken place in this country without its facilitation on the ground by the youth. This appears in form of political thuggery which had been seen as criminalisation of our politics. The political demagogues, in fermenting political violence, tend to operate from behind the scenes as commanders for the youth to execute orders which are to their own detriment. Though in some cases political thugs are paid and operate with relatively their consent, many youth are hoodwinked into political violence through the umbrella of party membership. By implication, a large chunk of youth involvement in political violence is attributable to ignorance.
Where there are educated youth in a political party, they become the unit of intelligence and operators of command post in order to execute violence for group interests. Where there are employed youth in some cases, they are compelled to provide for financial and other logistics for the execution of violence in the interest of their groups.

All these and more reveal vulnerability of the youth to some senseless politicians whose interest can only be achieved through violence.
Among other things, what makes our youths vulnerable to the acceptance of thuggery activities, include phenomenon of god fatherism in our politics, desperate attitude towards politics by the party leaders and members and money politics.
Groups of violent gangs are made up of thugs and thuggish who are disorganised alcohol and dagga addicts, aggressive, rough and dangerous youth who are either school dropouts, boys and girls from broken homes or societal outcasts who are willing and able to cause trouble and spill blood. By implication, youth who are socially downcast and from broken homes become the cheap articles for politicians who are looking for who to sing their own songs. This in furtherance now makes it possible for political violence to continue as long as such categories of youth continue to be available. Of course, where there are no youth who are willing to ferment trouble for the politicians, the reserved option will be bitterness expressed through the available media channels.

God fatherism engenders political violence and encourages political thuggery of which the youth are tools of realising them.
Godfathers maintain an army of thugs who intimidate political opponents, snatch ballot boxes during elections and play other key roles in manipulation of election results in accordance with the wishes of the godfather. God fatherism as a factor in perpetuation of political violence manifest in the way they provide money for more youth to be lured into violence during elections in order to make sure their interests are secured. Of course, their interest is to make sure the godsons or daughters win elections at all costs for their investment in politics to yield profits.
Another factor which reinforces violence and thuggery in our politics is the desperate attitude towards politics among our politicians. The desperation among some of our politicians to win elections and occupy political offices by all means is a major cause of prevalence of political thuggery and violence in our body politics. It is also the incumbent leaders who want to remain in power by all means, maintaining the army of thuggery both on the side of government security body and other illegitimate youth who may have been useful to them while contesting elections earlier, and have been absolved as personal assistants and special body guards.

The money politics which have become the order of the day in Zambia today cannot be left out in the explanation of the factors responsible for continued spread of political violence and thuggery. The level of poverty in the country is so intimidating that the
most innocent youth may give it thought if circumstances brought the opportunity of participating in violence his way. The politicians horde the wealth of the country only to release it during the electioneering campaign in form of gifts to the poor, especially the rural dwellers, so as to win their consent not only to vote, but to justify their thugs, who will be on the ground during election to carry the ballot boxes. Specifically, the youth are targeted as the instrument of perpetuating violence and, they are vulnerable to money and other gifts which can make them participate irrespective of the dangers involved in executing such mission.
Cash or favours for votes constitute a more immediate and tangible reward than promises to deliver goods or reform policy.

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