VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga says the current crop of political leaders has become a danger to Zambia’s democratic dispensation due to rising political violence, which they continue to sponsor.

And Mwaanga has cautioned that political violence will destroy the country and lead to anarchy if allowed to continue unabated.

In a statement, Thursday, Mwaanga complained that the violence, which engulfed Lukashya constituency in Kasama District ahead of yesterday’s by-election, was worrying because politics in the current dispensation was being practiced as a war and platform to suppress others.

“In the last few days, we have witnessed very ugly scenes of violence in Lukashya. We witnessed similar incidents during by-elections in Chilubi constituency. Our country’s Constitution makes it clear that when the office member of parliament or councillor falls vacant, there shall be a by-election ordered by the Electoral Commission of Zambia within a stipulated period of time. That is what our nascent democracy demands. Most of the political violence occurs during by-elections,” Mwaanga observed.

“The people involved are usually hired or brought from towns and cities, just for purposes of unleashing violence and destruction on political opponents. Many leaders in the current crop of politicians don’t seem to understand what the rights and responsibilities of all citizens in a democratic dispensation. They have reluctantly been dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming and not fully understanding their roles considering they have become a danger to our hard-won independence and democratic dispensation. Politics is not war. It is not about who uses the most force to suppress others. That era belongs to the dark era of dictatorships. It is about a contest of ideas and policies.”

He cautioned that political violence would destroy the country and lead to anarchy if allowed to continue unabated.

“In the process, certain basic principles must be observed and respected. Some of these are: The right of eligible citizens to freely participate in the installation and removal of local and central governments through free, fair, transparent and credible democratic elections, which meet international standards; election campaigns must have a fair level-playing field for all participants; there must be freedom of association and expression, including freedom of the press to report national issues in a balanced and even handed manner, including corruption, which has become the bane of many African governments, without political interference from the government; democratic governments must operate in a transparent manner and remain fully accountable to the people who elected them; defend and protect the rule of law and constitutionalism, with guarantees of equality for all before the law. This culture of political violence, if allowed to continue unabated, will destroy our country and lead to anarchy,” Mwaanga cautioned.

And he added that political parties had an inescapable duty to prevent their unruly cadres from engaging in violence and to make them understand that a democratic country accommodated different opinions.

“Political parties have an inescapable duty to prevent their unruly cadres from engaging in violence and to make them understand that democracy accommodates differences of opinion, which must be respected. Politics of ethnicity, insults, threats and force should under no circumstances, be given any space in our country. They are barbaric and savagely in the extreme! We have tripartite elections in August, next year, and the question of who wins council, parliamentary seats and the Presidency, will not be determined by the candidates, but by the people of Zambia through their votes,” stated Mwaanga.

“We fought very hard for independence and the re-introduction of multiparty politics. I urge our political leaders to honour those gallant men and women freedom fighters, who sacrificed so much, by desisting from violence and irresponsible utterances, which only undermine peace and the freedom of our people, who deserve better. Leaders of political parties have a major role to play in ruthlessly stamping out violence. Law enforcement agencies must deal with perpetrators of violence without regard to political affiliations. They should show mature leadership and the people will follow.”