The Human Rights Commission (HRC) says statements of accusations and counter accusations from political party leaders over violence will only perpetuate the problem.

And HRC says the country needs to reach a consensus about destructive tension in Zambia which requires urgent attention.

Condemning the clash between PF and UPND cadres at Lusaka’s Memorial Park graveyard yesterday, HRC spokesperson Mweelwa Muleya stated that there was need for effective leadership in promoting coexistence and respect for others.

“There is need for leaders across the political divide to accept to be held accountable for the atrocities committed by their members and start taking practical good faith efforts towards stopping their members from engaging in criminal acts. Statements of accusations and counter accusations from political leaders without reprimanding their cadres engaging in violence fall far too short of the required leadership to redress the current wave of violence the country is experiencing. In fact, such statements only serve to send a clear message that cadres engaged in political violence have the approval of their respective party leadership, thereby creating a vicious cycle of violence through retaliations,” Muleya stated.

“The Commission therefore calls for genuine and effective leadership in promoting the spirit of co-existence, respect and protection of all forms of diversity that are fundamental to a pluralistic and democratic society. The Government has an obligation to facilitate political dialogue because dialogue is a necessary quality of good governance through moderating excessive divergent views that are inevitable in a multi-party democracy. As the Commission stated in its statement of 4th April 2017, it is a grave mistake to hope that the current political animosity and suppression of human rights and freedoms will be resolved through threats and counter threats or public condemnation statements without dialoguing and subordinating personal and partisan interests to national interests.”

He stated that it was shameful to deprive bereaving families their right to mourn peacefully.

“The Human Rights Commission (HRC) wishes to condemn the savage attack of mourners at Lusaka’s Memorial Park yesterday and calls for political leadership to end the escalating violation of human rights and freedoms through organised political violence. It is a great national shame that bereaved families and individuals are not only deprived of their right to mourn and put to rest their departed ones in peace, but are subjected to politically- motivated physical violence, theft and destruction of their properties at a graveyard! Mourning and burial places should be sacred places of grieving and consoling those suffering from the loss of their departed beloved ones,” he stated.

“Therefore, the attacking of mourners by political cadres at Memorial Park in Lusaka yesterday must be condemned as a cold-hearted and criminal political behaviour. The Commission calls upon the police to thoroughly investigate the unfortunate incident at Memorial Park, arrest and prosecute the culprits without fear or favour.”

Muleya retaliated that the political hostility between PF and UPND was endangering the maintenance of law and order in the country.

“The Commission wishes to reiterate that the continued political hostility between the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) is contributing to, and endangering the maintenance of peace, law and order as well as grossly undermining the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and freedoms. It was high time the nation reached a consensus that there was destructive tension in the country that required urgent attention in order to restore a peaceful environment for everyone regardless of their political beliefs and association,” stated Muleya.

“There is danger that if the current lawlessness is not effectively addressed, cadres will soon have the audacity to start invading public places of work and business, as well as private places such as homes to attack perceived political opponents. That will be too late for the nation to realise that not all is well in the country. The concern of the Human Rights Commission is that such an environment of breakdown of law and order will make it extremely difficult to protect human rights. It is a well- known fact that political violence is an organised crime which has been increasingly applied as a strategy of promoting and maintaining political hegemony since the run up to Zambia’s 2016 general elections.”