THE escalating and seemingly uncontrollable violence in Sesheke has yet again cast a dark cloud over Zambian politics and arguably sends a wrong signal to the outside world.
It is very disappointing that despite passionate appeals for restraint by various stakeholders, including President Edgar Lungu, clashes between Patriotic Front cadres and the United Party for National Development (UPND) have shamefully escalated.
Even more painful and heart-breaking, is the fact that yesterday, the two rival camps had the audacity to pounce on one another at the police station, a place where people seek protection under such circumstances.
Paradoxically, this was a day when voters needed to troop to polling stations to cast their votes without harassment or intimidation but how could this be possible with the kind of violence witnessed?
It won’t be surprising at all if the Sesheke parliamentary contest will be marred by apathy because no voter would dare venture out to vote amid violent acts even committed right at a police station itself.
Two days ago, President Edgar Lungu, in a fervent appeal for truce, questioned why cadres from both camps were engaged in physical fights when he and Hakainde Hichilema where not.
Indeed, why would cadres from both parties engage in such violent brawls when their leaders were not, if we may ask?
What is the motivation for these cadres to brazenly engage in violence in breach of the electoral code of conduct right under the watchful eye of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ)?
It is mindboggling that the cadres are prepared to even risk their lives to fight and get injured or be arrested just because come rain come sunshine, their candidate has to scoop the parliamentary seat.
Nay, there is more than meets the eye to this violence… political leaders from both PF and the UPND owe the nation an explanation over these despicable acts perpetrated by their cadres.
We believe party officials from both camps have power to term their unruly members but, going by tension and subsequent violence that rocked Sesheke, it is highly disputable, the cadres were under stern instruction not to engage in any violence.
But that’s not all. The acrimony between the two parties is getting out of hand and needs resolving at all costs, the sooner this is done the better.
If these two opponents can clash in this manner over a parliamentary seat what will it be like in 2021 when the nation will hold Presidential and General elections?
The relentless violence being perpetrated now by political cadres from both UPND and PF is a serious wakeup call for the nation as it is a harbinger of what to expect in 2021.
Unless, drastic measures are taken now to put an end to the violence once and for all, the nation has every reason to worry about the elections in 2021. Finger pointing won’t help resolve this nagging problem.
But perhaps the violence points to the inevitable need for national political dialogue and secondly underscores the need to give the ECZ more legal clout to contend with violence.
As things stand, the ECZ could be said to be a toothless bulldog which can’t bite given that it has completely failed to deal with political parties that have been breaching the electoral code of conduct with impunity. For unknown reasons though, the ECZ has lamentably failed to utilise the powers that it has to deal with the violence.
Despite warnings and threats to disqualify political parties guilty of perpetrating violence, the ECZ failed to walk the talk. Instead, its officials hopelessly stood by as the brouhaha among PF and UPND members engulfed Sesheke.
Clearly, the ECZ needs the muscle to contend with problems of violence in cooperation with police. But while this may be so, both the PF and UPND leaders should seriously consider schooling their cadres on the importance of refraining from violence.
What does it gain cadres to fight and lose their limbs or indeed lose a life only because one person has to be ushered to Parliament?
Zambia is not in a war situation but the hostility and violence exhibited between members of the two political parties is really worrisome, the more reason the dialogue process must proceed for peace and reconciliation to prevail.