Opposition political parties in Zambia are made to operate as if we are living in a one party state and not a multiparty political dispensation. Why should this be so?
Today Zambia is a de facto one party state.
And chief Imenda’s advice to the government not to “torture” opposition leaders because Zambia is a constitutional multiparty state is timely and needs to be heeded.
“If it’s that anyone who speaks to an opposition leader is an enemy of the State then let us change the Constitution to go back to one party state. Every leader who came into power was once in the opposition. Nobody came from heaven to become president without starting from the opposition. So opposition leaders should not be tortured. The people who are ruling today were [once] in the opposition,” says chief Imenda.
The “torture” of the opposition chief Imenda is talking about is the political repression, persecution of opposition leaders and their followers for the purpose of restricting or preventing their ability to take part in the political life of a society thereby reducing their standing among their fellow citizens and electability.
We see this “torture” today in political repression and discrimination of the opposition.
Today this “torture” of the opposition is not even concealed. It manifests itself through the discriminatory administration of the public order Act, police brutality, human rights violations, surveillance abuse, imprisonment.
This “torture” of the opposition is also reinforced by means outside of written policy, such as by abuse of the state owned and government controlled media.
And systemic and violent political repression of the opposition is a typical feature of dictatorships, totalitarian states and similar regimes.
Today, acts of political “torture” are openly carried out by police working with the leaders and supporters of the Patriotic Front.
Look at the way Chishimba Kambwili was treated by the police last week! Was all that necessary? Wasn’t that “torture” of Kambwili?
What’s the purpose of all this “torture”, repression of the opposition? To weaken or destroy political opposition so that those in power can retain power, keep themselves in government longer.
When their authority or legitimacy is threatened, regimes respond by overtly or covertly suppressing the opposition to eliminate the behavioural threat. State repression subsequently affects opposition political mobilisation.
The “torture” is intended to reduce the capacity of the opposition to organise for elections.
But what the perpetrators of this “torture “, repression of the opposition are forgetting is that their actions can make possible for the opposition to leverage state repressive behaviour to spur mobilisation among the masses by framing “torture”, repression as a new grievance against those in power.
And this political repression is often accompanied by violence. Violence can both eliminate political opposition directly by killing or maiming opposition members, or indirectly by instilling fear.
Preventing political parties from holding their regular activities is not good news for a multiparty democracy and is unacceptable.
Edgar Lungu’s government seems to be targeting all dissenting voices.
In order to avoid conflict, all political parties must be allowed to conduct their political activities freely.
In a special message to Congress on the internal security of the United States on August 8, 1950, President Harry Truman said, “Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear.”