By Tuesday Bwalya
LAST week, the country again witnessed political violence and thuggery.
The Kaoma Council chairperson election was characterised by political violence, leaving one person (Mr Banda) dead. Cadres from the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) were reported to be shooting at each other.
The level of political violence in this country seems not to be abating and it has taken another dimension; cadres now are moving with guns. As Harry Kalaba and Chishimba Kambwili observed, cadres have graduated from carrying pangas to carrying guns. I’m wondering how the cadres acquired guns.
Many Zambians may wish to know that Zambia has restrictive gun laws; it is not easy for one to acquire a firearm. Very few firearm certificates are issued in a year by the Zambia Police Service to people who wish to own guns. It is not like in the United States where one can walk into a shop and buy a gun. Furthermore, the cost of a gun is too high for an ordinary cadre to afford.
Most of these cadres move with pistols which are more expensive than a rifle or shotgun. These small guns cost not less than US$800 which is over K10,525. This shows that there is a systematic process of arming these cadres.
I wish to remind Zambians that under the New Deal Government of His Excellency, the late Levy Patrick Mwanawasa, we never saw political violence of this magnitude. Cadres were disciplined. Mwanawasa was a disciplinarian; he never condemned lawlessness and thuggery. Political cadres were never allowed to be above the law.
The violence began showing its ugly face more often in Zambia’s politics after Mwanawasa died and it has since been gaining momentum.
When President Edgar Lungu reached Kaoma last week, he lashed out at the Zambia Police Service; condemning the Service for not doing enough to quell political violence and lawlessness.
I wish to differ with President Lungu on this issue. My observation is that the Inspector General of Police and his officers know what is needed to be done to stop political violence and thuggery, but they are constrained by politicians from the ruling party from acting in a decisive manner in order to put to an end this scourge.
Maybe president Lungu has forgotten what happened in Sesheke early this year during a parliamentary by election. Police officers beat up unruly PF cadres in order to maintain law and order but, instead of promoting those officers they were retired in national interest. Who retired them? Is it not your government? Such actions by your government, Mr President, instill fear in police officers to deal with lawlessness emanating from cadres, especially your cadres.
I wish to remind President Lungu that he is our steward; a person in charge of this country. He ought to take responsibility over the political violence; he should not just pay lip service to this problem. He should not just condemn the Police Service but free it up and allow the men and women in uniform to deal with violent cadres, either from your party or opposition parties in an impartial manner.
I have observed on several occasions where cadres have committed offences but are not arrested by the police because they belong to your party. For example, the PF cadres who filmed themselves insulting Chishimba Kambwili and Hakainde Hichilema up to now have not been arrested by police. This is because they belong to your party. The only PF cadres who have been arrested in your government are those who beat up minister Given Lubinda. Your government, President Lungu, should stop this hypocrisy and allow the police to apply the law to everyone who is behind this violence in the country.
Further, I wish to remind the President that he has the powers to hire and fire. If he thinks the IG and his team are letting him down as he observed in Kaoma, why is he still keeping them? Replace them with other officers who will be ready to work; officers who will heed your commands.
President Lungu, if indeed you fear God as you claim, be guided by the Spirit of God to stop the violence we are witnessing because the God you purport to worship is not God of disorder but peace (1 Corinthians 14:33). Ending violence, Mr President, is the simplest thing you can do; it is simpler than solving the economic problems we are facing as a country. Let for once Zambians congratulate you on doing the right thing. Detest violence, not verbally but by actions. We want tangible actions towards eradicating political violence and thuggery in the country.
As I conclude, I wish to say that those who are in power today should remember that they will not remain in power forever. Therefore, one day you will stand before God and the people of Zambia to answer for your acts; including the act of tolerating violence. There is time for everything (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). President Lungu, do the right thing and the right thing is to end political violence. Yes, you have the power to end political violence and thuggery if you wish.
The Author is a lecturer at the University of Zambia in the Department of Library and Information Science.