IF we can see this level of violence in a parliamentary by-election, then what will happen in 2021? ActionAid Zambia has asked.
On Friday, chaos reigned in Sesheke as police officers ‘went berserk’ firing gun shots and throwing tear gas at UPND supporters.
Several people were left gasping for air as the tear-gas was too much.
Commenting on the matter, ActionAid Zambia country manager Nalucha Nganga Ziba stated that terrible acts of political violence were aimed at intimidating the democratic contestation of ideas and silencing dissenting opinions.
She stated the happenings in Sesheke were a violation of the electoral Code of Conduct under the electoral process Act of 2016, particularly section 15.
The said Act stipulates that ‘a person shall not (a) cause violence or use any language or engage in any conduct which leads or is likely to lead to violence or intimidation during an election campaign or election.’
“It has been reported that several youths from the UPND and the ruling PF engaged in political violence in Sesheke ahead of the February 12 by-election. Such despicable behaviour is fast becoming a growing trend in the Zambian political space with threats of violence or actual violent actions against politicians, activists and ordinary Zambians who express or hold divergent views in the political arena,” Nganga-Ziba stated in a press statement issued by ActionAid Zambia communications and campaigns manager Joan Chirwa.
Nganga-Ziba added that the electoral Act was very clear that a person who engaged in violence committed an offence and was liable, upon conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years.
“Politicians must realise that elections are only a contest to serve and not a platform for war. They must, therefore, compete on ideas about how best to better the lives of the electorates and not on who has the most dangerous weapons to use against the other,” she stated.
“What we are witnessing in today’s politics in Zambia is extremely worrying. If we can see this level of violence in a parliamentary by-election, then what will happen in 2021? This unruly and criminal behaviour, if left unchecked, will inevitably lead to outbreaks of political violence and will ultimately bring about voter apathy.”
Nganga-Ziba stated that ActionAid Zambia was, among other things, calling upon all peace-loving Zambians, irrespective of political affiliation, to condemn and reject all forms of political violence.
“[We] urge all political parties to strongly remind their supporters that violence is not part of the Zambian culture and to take all precautions to ensure the safety of participants at their public rallies,” Nganga-Ziba stated.
“It is unfortunate that the government’s continued tolerance for use of force by organised armed groups of cadres and indeed the government State security is a clear violation of human rights and a danger to Zambia’s democratic governance system.”
She further stated that Zambians ought to be reminded that they had a right to civic participation and that an election was such a one.
“We urge the Electoral Commission of Zambia to ensure that every election is free and fair, devoid of intimidation of voters and that it is conducted in a peaceful and conducive environment,” stated Nganga-Ziba.