What happened at Lusaka’s InterContinental Hotel on Monday where a Law Association of Zambia public discussion on Bill 10 was violently disrupted by known Patriotic Front cadres is totally unacceptable. It deserves wholesome condemnation and those behind it must be arrested and prosecuted. There should be an end to the usual impunity that characterise the criminal activities of Patriotic Front cadres.
Those who disrupted that meeting are known because there’s CCTV footage in that hotel. And the event was being covered live by a television crew. A lot of footage was also taken by individuals. The Zambia Police has no excuse.
And the Law Association of Zambia must see to it that these Patriotic Front cadres are arrested and prosecuted to stop this intolerance and the impunity that accompanies it.
Intolerance – the unwillingness to put up with disagreeable ideas and groups – has thus become a matter of very serious concern in this country today.
Intolerance in one form or another fuels conflicts.
And even where intolerance does not directly produce political violence, the failure of democratising, to embrace political freedom for all, even those in the opposition, has become one of the most important impediments to the consolidation of democratic reform in this country.
Democracy is a system in which institutionalised respect for the rights of others must exist. In particular, they must be given the means of contestation – the right to try to convince others of the rightness of their positions.
Without guarantees of the right of all to participate in politics, the marketplace of ideas cannot function effectively. The idea of a marketplace is that anyone can put forth a product – an idea – for political consumers to consider. The success of the idea is determined by the level of support freely given in the market. The market encourages deliberation, through which superior ideas are found to be superior, and through which the flaws of bad ideas are exposed for all to see – almost as if guided by an invisible hand.
Political parties that have become accustomed to political power often seek to prohibit those opposing them from participating in the marketplace of ideas.
Without a willingness to put up with all ideas seeking to compete for the hearts and minds of the citizenry, the market is likely to fail. Democracy requires the free and open debate of political differences, and such debate can only take place where political tolerance prevails.
Political tolerance in a democracy requires that all political ideas, and the groups holding them, get the same access to the marketplace of ideas as the access legally extended to the ideas of those in power.
This obviously precludes any form of violence.
Actions and behaviours related to efforts to persuade people and to compete for political power must be put up with. This might include giving public speeches or debates.
Tolerance thus requires that citizens and those in power put up with ideas that are thought to be objectionable.