A consortium of civil society organisations has called on the Zambia Police to apply the law firmly on any political leader promoting hate speech based on tribal and ethnic diversity.

And the CSOs have expressed concern over the growing tendency by political parties to mobilize support from citizens on the basis of tribe and ethnicity.

This was contained in a joint statement signed Zitukile Consortium executive director Nicholas Phiri for and on behalf of Actionaid Zambia, Alliance for Community Action, Care for Nature Zambia, Chapter One Foundation and the Center for Trade Policy and Development (CTPD).

“We are particularly dismayed and disturbed by the latest tribal sentiments uttered by officials from the ruling Patriotic Front on radio Lutanda in Northern Province. It is even more disturbing that these officials have not been censured or disciplined by the PF party hierarchy as a way of curbing the spread of hate speech and tribal sentiments. It is clear that politicians deliberately choose to ignore constitutional provisions and opt to use tribal remarks in political mobilization knowing too well that no punitive measures would be taken against them for engaging in tribal schemes to win votes. We wish to urge the Zambia Police Service to apply the law firmly on any political leader promoting hate speech based on tribal and ethnic diversity,” read the statement.

“The people of Southern Province together with other tribes in Zambia have always coexisted, intermarried and conducted politics and business together long before even the PF came on the scene without acrimony based on ethnicity. Zambians across tribal divisions have always lived and demonstrated the true spirit of one Zambia one nation based on mutual respect for their diversity.”

And the CSOs noted that politicking on tribal lines had the potential to ignite civil strife and tribal wars among citizens.

“We are concerned that political mobilization based on tribal lines has potential to ignite civil strife and tribal wars between and among our people given the multiplicity and diversity of our ethnic heritage. As civil society, we are greatly concerned with the growing tendency by political parties of mobilizing support from citizens on the basis of tribe and ethnicity. It goes without saying that mobilizing politics on tribal and ethnic grounds does not only go against Zambia’s social, cultural and ethnic heritage but is also against constitutional values and principles that seek to promote and uphold national unity in diversity,” the statement read.

“Article 60 (2a&c) of the 2016 amended national constitution provides that political parties should promote values and principles specified in the Zambian constitution which include upholding national unity. Further, Article 60 (3a) of the Republican Constitution clearly outlaws political mobilization on the basis of religious, linguistic, racial, ethnic, tribal, gender, sectoral and provincial propaganda.”

Meanwhile, the consortium urged citizens not to buy into tribal politics.

“Citizens must not feel compelled to affiliate or support any political formation on the basis of tribe or ethnicity. Every citizen has a right to support a political party of their personal choice and liking. For this reason, we wish to implore citizens not to buy into tribal politics as that does not and will never improve the well-being of millions living in poverty. As a people, we must do everything within our lawful power to preserve our unity in diversity while defending the constitution as provided in Article 2 of the 2016 amended constitution,” read the statement.

“Further, the Zambian Bill of Rights under Article 21 provides that “except in his own consent a person shall not be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade union or other associations for the protection of his interest”.”