Vernon Mwaanga’s call for tolerance deserves a favourable consideration from all our political players.
The fundamental value we must have in this multiparty political dispensation is a respect for diversity and acceptance of pluralism. Gone are the days when everyone was supposed to think the same way, belong to the same party, and support the same programme. True believers in multiparty democracy welcome dialogue and debate over views contrary to their own because they realise that they themselves may not always be right. They recognise that there is a specific role to be played by each different organisation in a spirit of unity amidst diversity.
Political tolerance, defined as the willingness to grant political rights to disliked groups, is central to multiparty politics given its links with civil liberties and political freedoms.
Despite having multiparty politics for close to three decades, political tolerance is still eluding us.
Given its role in supporting democratic values and political rights like freedoms of speech and association and the right to vote, demonstrate publicly, and hold an elected political office, tolerance is an indispensable and important value for a multiparty and pluralistic society.
It is very clear that establishing and maintaining a tolerant public remains a challenge in our politics.
Nontrivial gaps between tolerance in principle and in practice remain in our multiparty democracy.
While in some contexts intolerance
toward specific groups have fluctuated and may have even attenuated, it is also possible in other contexts that levels of tolerance have remained the same or perhaps even decreased.
Political tolerance entails the extension of political rights to groups with opposing or disliked views and is a pivotal democratic value essential for democratic functioning and survival. Political tolerance involves taking key democratic principles like support for civil liberties and applying them in practice to disliked groups. Healthy democracies require citizens to put up with or tolerate the views and political participation of other groups, even those groups whose views they might oppose or whose participation they may perceive as threatening.
Political intolerance targets the political freedoms of particular groups and ideologies through restrictions on civil liberties like freedom of expression and association. Tolerance is especially important in our weak and unconsolidated multiparty democracy where intolerance may cause instability in providing transitions from one regime to another as groups resist ceding power to rivals or try to institutionalise restrictions on civil liberties for particular groups.