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Violence, nullification of Lusambo’s election

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent,” Mahatma Gandhi once said.

On Friday, the Ndola High Court nullified the election of Kabushi PF member of parliament Bowman Lusambo.

Judge Edward Musona, sitting in Ndola, ruled that the name “bulldozer” instilled fear in the UPND not to campaign freely.

In this matter, UPND losing candidate Bernard Kanengo petitioned the election of Lusambo in the Ndola High Court.

Judge Musona noted that Lusambo did not disassociate himself from his militia group known as ‘the Nato Forces’, which was attacking the electorates.

“I am satisfied that the respondent had knowledge of violence and his alibi regarding the violence episodes which were challenged by the petitioner,” said judge Musona. “I have no doubt that the witnesses saw the respondent. The alibi raised is destitute of merit. I have upheld all allegations except for false publication, that he stormed a radio [station] while Kanengo was appearing and the allegations that he caused violence in Toka ward. I declare the election of Lusambo null and void.”

Stakeholders consistently bemoaned and warned about the consequences of rampant violence that was promoted by the Patriotic Front (PF) administration in the last 10 years. This is violence that was targeted at the opposition and all dissenting voices – violence that Edgar Lungu and his minions such as Bowman were not ashamed of. In fact, Bowman not only called himself the chief bootlicker for Edgar but repeatedly basked in the bulldozer mantra.

The nullification of a parliamentary election on the basis of violence is not new, although retrogressive. When MMD lost to PF in 2011, most of their seats were petitioned on the basis of violence. Prior to that year’s general election, the PF as an opposition party suffered a lot of violence at the hands of the MMD. The MMD hacked their opponents with pangas and other offensive weapons, simply because they were in power. They did not expect anyone to challenge them – they could therefore do whatever they wanted. It was then not surprising that when PF took over the reigns of power, they found an opportunity to seek justice over the unfair electoral process – and MMD lost a lot of MPs through court nullifications.

Equally, the PF did not expect to lose the August 12 elections because they thought they would use violence to coerce Zambians into voting for them. Their violence was all over the country. And the arrogance of money and government resources – the inherent power and pomposity of incumbency blinded them. In Lusaka we had a militia led by Innocent Kalimanshi, calling themselves ‘The Americans’. In Ndola, Bowman formed one which he called itself ‘Nato Forces’, and they even branded their automobiles! This is how Edgar and colleagues escalated violence in our nation.

The worst students of history in Zambia are the politicians. We say so because none of them cares to learn from the past. Whether they are learned or primitive politicians there is no difference; they all repeat the same mistakes of their predecessors.

PF was rewriting the MMD script on violence. They had all the weaponry MMD cadres had. The only difference is that they formed militias within themselves. In fact, PF had more than three militias within itself. From harassing, maiming and killing citizens, the violence moved to the party itself. They had to outwit each other in committing heinous crimes in the name of protecting Edgar and the party.

This is a worrying trend because it does not seem to end any time soon. We know that UPND too are not clean, it is just a matter of time. They have not yet clocked a year in power, but we witnessed their brutal side in the Kaumbwe parliamentary poll. Had the PF lost in Kaumbwe to the UPND, that seat would have been petitioned over violence, among other issues.

We shall definitely have a different picture about the UPND after a year or so. If they also become violent like their predecessors, they should expect a lot of petitions when they lose power. What has happened to the MMD and PF will certainly happen to UPND unless they elect to change the course and heed Hakainde Hichilema’s call to peaceful coexistence. Time alone will tell!

Violence breeds violence – it has never brought peace anywhere. And it has never delivered credible elections – even if the perpetuators of violence eventually win an election, they are never respected. Citizens will always treat them as their own enemies.

As Richard A Falk said, “Looked at objectively, it is clear that the overwhelming majority of civilian deaths resulting from political violence are produced by what should be understood as ‘state terror’. Terrorism also serves as an excuse to avoid diplomacy and the peaceful resolution of conflict.”

And Philip Gourevitch warns that, “The piled-up dead of political violence are a generic staple of our information diet these days, and according to the generic report all massacres are created equal: the dead are innocent, the killers monstrous, the surrounding politics insane or nonexistent…The anonymous dead and their anonymous killers become their own context. The horror becomes absurd.”

But Martin Luther King Jr advises against violence stressing that, “Non-violence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

The UPND should therefore reflect deeply on the election nullifications and bring sanity into our politics. Otherwise, they risk suffering the same fate when they lose power.

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