Sesheke crackdown

Why did the ruling PF spook Sesheke residents?

Hakainde Hichilema has accused President Edgar Lungu’s regime of targeting to eliminate him in Sesheke on Friday.

“This chap attempted an assassination on my life without any provocation. We were holding a peaceful campaign meeting (due to a by-election) in a village, in Sesheke, Western Province. We were almost 35 kilometres away from his [President Lungu’s] own meeting. He sent a group of about 100 heavily armed men who opened heavy fire (including machine guns) at us,” claimed Hichilema. “With God’s grace, I survived and had to hide in the forest, walked/run for eight (8) hours. This chap is ruthless, brutal, a real monster who, if unchecked, will destroy Zambia beyond recognition. We are still establishing how many people, extent of injuries, and their identities.”

But Inspector General of police Kakoma Kanganja said his service was concerned with Friday’s political violence in Sesheke.

“We would like to categorically state that we will not tolerate any individuals perpetrating violence and that we will sternly deal with any one that would be found wanting,” warned Kanganja. “The Zambia Police Service wishes to state that no live ammunition was fired by our officers that were dispersing the unruly crowd in Sesheke yesterday [Friday]. We also wish to further clarify that no life was lost yesterday as a result of this fracas. As Zambia Police, we have since reinforced our officers on the ground to deal with any further disturbances in the area. I therefore call upon all police officers to ensure that they use proportionate force in ensuring that violence is brought to a stop. The police will institute an inquiry to bring to book all those that could have perpetuated this violence. We are appealing to the electorates of Sesheke and all political parties participating in the Sesheke bye-election to exercise restraint and tolerance as required in a civilised democratic society during and after the elections.”

The images and video clips from Sesheke of

police-led electoral violence make sad reading. It’s sad reading especially that all this was happening when Edgar Lungu, the Commander-In-Chief of armed forces and his home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo, who is in charge of the police, were right in the area. Were they behind the brutal attack on the opposition supporters? It is difficult to remove them from that crackdown against the opposition in Sesheke. What is even most worrying is that the IG does not even attempt to explain why his officers went for UPND supporters, gassing them, firing live ammunition. It’s as though he has no officers on the ground. And this is not the first time police have been used to curtail opposition campaigns or mobilisation activities. It cannot go on like this.

At almost three decades into multiparty democracy, Zambia should be a shining example in electoral management in the region, alas we are descending into an electoral dictatorship never seen before, not even during the UNIP reign.

We wonder why the PF is taking an attitude of winning polls at all costs!

And why is Edgar’s PF so intent on scooping every parliamentary seat? What is it that Edgar is scheming? Is it an attempt to getting more MPs so that he can take another bite at the Republican Constitution?

Why has it become all of a sudden sweet to militarise our elections? Who says a ruling party should have a monopoly of electoral victories even where voters are dissatisfied with it?

Why deploy platoons of policemen brandishing all sorts of arsenal in an area devoid of conflict?

What does an electoral campaign mean to PF?

Because the world over, a political campaign is an organised effort which seeks to influence the decision making process within a specific group. In democracies, political campaigns often refer to electoral campaigns, by which representatives are chosen or referendums are decided.

Election campaigns are the means by which candidates and political parties prepare and present their ideas and positions on issues to the voters in the period preceding election day. Parties and candidates establish physical command centres from which they carry out campaign activities and overall operations.

But from the time Edgar forced his candidature on PF and took over reigns of this Republic, the environment around political campaigns has been changing at an increasingly fast pace.

Zambian politics has become increasingly polarised. It’s simply total madness. Hotheads have come in hell bent at winning all elections at all costs!

And it is as though the PF does not read what goes on or what happens elsewhere when you treat an election as welfare.

According to the International Affairs Forum Spring 2015: “One major issue emerging from the governorship elections conducted in the Ekiti and Osun States of Nigeria is the presence of heavy security forces during their conduct. Platoons of security operatives, including military officers, were drafted to lock down the states shortly before, during and immediately after the elections with immediate consequences on peoples’ rights and freedom. Members of the opposition were specifically targeted. The pertinent questions to ask then are: What accounts for this? What are the implications on democratic consolidation? …

While to others, the seeming inability of INEC [Independent National Electoral Commission] to discharge its responsibility effectively coupled with the political partisanship of the security agencies in the discharge of their duties during and after the elections has continued to threaten Nigeria’s attempt towards democratic consolidation….

Elections are fundamental to democracy and it is often said that whereas it is possible to have elections without democracy, it is virtually impossible to have democracy without elections. Owing to the centrality of elections to the democratic process, emphasis has always been placed on ensuring credibility. And one of the ways to making an election credible is the issue of security. Mathias Hounkpe and Alioune Gueye argue that election security constitutes a major component of the electoral process but has however, in respect of emerging democracies, been hampered by series of factors, which include faulty legal framework, poor technical management of elections, poor management of competition and opposition, poor management of electoral disputes, and past roles of security forces…The over-whelming militarisation of politics, engenders a consequent politicisation of the military, that may lead to a situation where a politicized military strikes and cashes in on a general crisis partly created and partly reinforced by the militarization of politics and civic life, and truncates the democratic experiment… It is imperative that the country’s politicians and its citizens should hasten up and change their attitude and perception towards politics and governance, so that the democracy can mature fast, such that the military can be restricted to performing their constitutional duties.”

We urge the PF to sober up and allow Zambians to make independent electoral decisions. They are not the owners of this Republic. PF are a stakeholder privileged to lead the government. And it is a reality that they will not be in government forever. Today they are in government, tomorrow they will be in opposition. This is the consoling reality. Playing the tough guy will not help PF. Spooking Sesheke residents will not help either.

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