Forum for Democratic Process (FODEP) executive director Chimfwembe Mweenge says violence and hate has continued to characterise Zambian politics because political leaders have not embraced the multi-party system of democracy.
Commenting on the recent pronouncement from various leaders both in the ruling party and in the opposition UPND, who had been inciting cadres to attack one other in self defence, Mweenge said Zambian leaders still had the One Party State mentality even though the country was declared a democracy.
“We heard Mr Hakainde saying their supporters had been attacked and that it’s enough, they are human beings and they ought to defend themselves. But what we make of that as FODEP is that we are at a point where we expect our leaders to look at violence in a political and the electoral process, not just as one of those things. They need to look at it holistically in the sense that whatever actions are done in the name of violence now, will have a ripple effect on the democracy and the peace of this nation,” Mweenge said.
“If you look at countries that experienced civil strife like Liberia, you will find that it was out of selfishness of the leaders. It all begins with abusing young people, those who do not have means of survival. Youths who do not have jobs are the ones who are lured into violence. Therefore, if any of our leaders are aspiring to form government or they are in the opposition, it is very critical that they analyse the statements and actions that come out of them.”
He observed that the unemployed youths had become too vulnerable and desperate to survive.
“We know the drivers of violence in this nation. It’s because there is youth unemployment. As a result of that, a number of youths are not participating in the running of the economy and therefore, they are vulnerable. We also know that the multi-partism that we’ve embraced has not really taken route. We are still fighting with the Kaunda one party kind of regime ghost, where if you form government, those who are in the opposition are your enemies. But that is not the way it’s supposed to be. We need to have a culture where those who are in the opposition are regarded as equal participants in the running of the nation. Much as there could be differences in ideologies, much as there could be differences in the way one approaches any national issue, we believe that we are dealing with compatriots here. Mr Hakainde, Mr Edgar Chagwa Lungu, Saviour Chishimba, Chishimba Kambwili, Mr Sean Tembo, Madam Edith Nawakwi. All these are people that we need to idealise as our leaders,” Mweenge observed.
Mweenge cautioned political leaders who were in the habit of inciting violence to consider the consequences of such actions to the future of the country.
“Violence has got very short legs, it may appear to work for now. But anyone who understands political mobilisation knows that violence will help whoever is using it as a tool to deter those whom he perceives as an enemy but in the long run, it will keep away your popularity from growing. It will keep away those people who would have crossed to your side in support of your ideology because no one wants to be associated with violence. Therefore, it’s very important that all these leaders whom we have described as compatriots, they need to understand that for whatever actions that they do today it has got consequences for the now and indeed for the future. We know that the nations that have gone through very hard times, it took irresponsibility of the leaders and a seed was sown in the young people. Our leaders today must understand that violence,” he said.
And Mwenge said cadres do not owe their loyalty to politicians but to the money that they receive.
“The young people who are motivated to become violent, they do not owe them anything at all. No loyalty, they owe their loyalty to the money that is being paid to them. So anyone who will come with more money than it is being given or indeed if they realise that at the end of the day they are used, they will actually turn out to use the same skills that they use and use violence against themselves, and that becomes a danger to the nation. So that must be understood by our leaders that this violence must be stopped. In deeds and also in words. It’s very important, otherwise we will have a very big situation to handle. In fact, they also have to understand that with this rise of gangsterism that we are seeing, it is a manifestation. One should ask themselves, who is motivating young people to be forming gangster groups?” asked Mweenge.
“So from us as FODEP we understand these things, that’s why we are saying it’s very irresponsible for any leader to motivate young people to become violent against his perceived enemies. It is actually very irresponsible of any leader. We are making a passionate appeal that all those political parties that believe in the ideals of democracy, they need to rise and make electoral violence, political violence as an issue in the electoral process. Political parties that have been champions of violence need to be campaigned on the basis of the same violence that they are preaching. We understand that violence of any sort will not help anybody, it is anti human, anti Zambian, it is anti-constitutional and this cannot be tolerated.”