Archbishop Telesphore Mpundu says there is institutional violence going on in Zambia and that “no one can deny that and claim to be sane”.
“Each time we have an election or a by-election is a time of anxiety, time of violence. The causes of political violence find their roots in sin and pride and lust for power as its offspring. The perennial temptation of human beings is to want to be like God. There are many examples of modern life where human beings would like to be like God. Violence did not take a long time to come. Brothers Cain and Abel, because of this lust for power; Cain killed his own younger brother Abel,” says Archbishop Mpundu.
According to Archbishop Mpundu political violence was primitive because it was based on intolerance; “it is undemocratic because it frightens anyone with a different point of view from expressing their opinion and thereby gaining an unfair advantage in competing for approval of the electorate. Two years before the presidential and general elections here in Zambia, the nation is full of little else other than politics and political campaigns”.
He warns that political violence is dangerous because it is a recipe for widespread violence, civil war and ethnic cleansing.
“The brutality of violence and its utter futility are shown by the fact that most on receiving end of violence are the weak such as children, women, the elderly, the physically and mentally challenged and those that have no voices at all. If you want to move forward, the political morality is there that says ‘do unto others as you would like others do unto you’. We know exactly what is wrong; we know exactly what we should not do. We know exactly what is evil [and] we do not even need religion for that. We have God’s law written in our hearts! But what we do to one another; we are cannibals to one another. We become parasites! We don’t do unto others what we would like them to do to us. But rather we do unto others what they do to us. [There is] institutional violence that goes on in this country and no one can deny that and claim to be sane. It is tempting to come up with the argument [that] we were doing it only in self defence. But in self defence you can come up with a military strategy, preemptive strike. Self-defence? No! It isn’t? We are God’s children; we don’t need to be Christians, Muslims, we don’t have to be people who have allegiance to traditional religion. We abhor totally violence,” says Archbishop Mpundu.
He says “we became more brutal to each other than the British [were.]”
“Institutional violence, abuse of the judicial process to persecute our political enemies; this is violence but violence which is ‘baptised.’ Nobody sees that it is wrong because it is being done by the State. The public order Act! All political parties that have gone into government – MMD, PF – were speaking against the public order Act. [But] as soon as they go into government, they hold on to it! This is institutional violence [and] it is making us like gods,” says Archbishop Mpundu.
Institutionalised violence is expressed by institutions through discriminatory laws and law enforcement.
But institutionalised violence is never admitted. People are rarely happy to be associated with an institution responsible for the harassment, humiliation and even demise of a particular group of people. Unless, of course, you’re a shameless fascist like Hitler.
It refers to a form of violence wherein some social structure or social institution may harm people by preventing them from meeting their basic needs.
Rather than conveying a physical image, institutionalised violence is an avoidable impairment of fundamental human needs. As it is avoidable, institutionalised violence is a high cause of premature death and unnecessary disability. And because institutionalised violence affects people differently in various social structures, it is very closely linked to social injustice. Institutionalised violence and direct violence are said to be highly interdependent, including political violence, police violence and state violence.
Institutionalised violence refers to the avoidable limitations society places on groups of people that constrain them from achieving the quality of life that would have otherwise been possible. These limitations could be political, economic, or legal in nature and usually originate in institutions that have authority over particular subjects. It directly illustrates a power system wherein social structures or institutions cause harm to people in a way that results in maldevelopment or deprivation. Rather than the term being called social injustice or oppression, there is an advocacy for it to be called violence because this phenomenon comes from, and can be corrected by human decisions, rather than just natural causes.
It is the use of power to cause harm, that is, violation of human rights, and to enforce Institutionalised oppression.
That is, institutionalised violence is contained in the very structures of society itself. But what precisely are society’s structures? They are people’s ways of relating to each other according to accepted rules, to such a degree that these rules become virtually the very essence of human interrelations. They exist in the intersubjectivity of people, and in each person in so far as she or he belongs to the group. That is why it is said that institutionalised violence stems from the structures, that is, the rules regulating human behaviour, but is also, simultaneously, within the structures, which make up the individual and the collective psyche.
These rules are transmitted and learnt by each and every one of us. Hence, institutionalised violence tends to reproduce itself. Although the rules vary and the structures have a built-in, internal flexibility, they tend constantly to reproduce themselves, with certain adaptations.
An outstanding feature of institutionalised violence is that the victim is also a part of it, in a position of acquiescence or confrontation. We cannot predetermine which of these positions will be taken, because this depends, among other factors, upon the degree to which the victim has internalised the degree of criticism towards it that he or she has developed. In any case, the victim shares some or all of the rules of the game to which he or she is submitted, and so the victim becomes an objective accomplice of these rules.
Brian Awehali said, “Individuals are prey to institutions in modern mass societies… Individuals can struggle mightily against institutionalised conditions, but without changing the institutions themselves, those efforts will be largely for naught, since people tire, lose focus, forget, and, eventually, give up their ghosts, while institutions share no such limitations.”
An institution rooted in violence can never protect our rights, freedoms or liberties; it can never set us free.
Perhaps this is why an institution is unlikely to feel or admit to shame; it may be unable to countenance the possibility that at root it is not what it purports, even to itself, to be.
Colonial legacy laws such as the public order Act and today’s fascist and discriminatory political and legal practices are all part of the same system, and it needs to be changed now