The Civil Society Poverty Observatory Group (CSPOG) Representative Edah Chimya says political party leaders should focus on poverty levels and low number of women representation in parliament instead of name calling.

And University of Zambia Historian Professor Bizeck Phiri says political party leaders need to ensure that they are not tolerating their cadres to generate violence.

Speaking when she featured on, “Our Zambia” discussion program aired on Radio Phoenix last Thursday, under the theme ‘How can our political parties embrace issue based campaigns?’Chimya said citizens should be informed by leaders on how they will address challenges the country is facing.

“What is current in Zambia now is the issue of hunger, debt, high levels of poverty, these are some of the issues that need to be looked at. We all know that in terms of representation at Parliament level, in 2016, we only had 18 percent if women representation, at local government it was only nine percent, this is a problem and politicians need to come out and say ‘this is how we are going to deal with the gender gap,’” Chimya said.

“I think for us, the biggest issue is the gender gap. We know that power is in the hands of men and we clearly know that Zambia is part of international and regional instruments which guarantee the rights of women in gender equality and women empowerment. To educate our constituencies, we encourage the women to participate in politics, we also teach women to support each other so that we can have the numbers in terms of politics,” she said.

Chimya, who is also the Zambia Alliance of Women executive director, observed that when political parties held rallies, the focus was on name calling.

“Each time political parties hold rallies, you hear very little in terms of issues but what characterises rallies is name calling, talking about other parties. I don’t know if that excites the electorate. We hope that this time around political parties will be accountable, and for citizens, we should not just turn up, be happy and clap about things like name calling. What we need is to get to the next level, we need to move,” said Chimya.

And Prof Phiri said there’s nothing wrong with political regalia but violence.

“We the Zambians need to understand that a political party regalia is identifying yourself, you are proud that you belong to this organisation. There is nothing wrong, what is wrong is cadres saying you are now violating our area of control, you are not supposed to be wearing that material. People should be educated, people should be informed so that when we are talking about an election that is issue based, people understand what the issues are and which political party can best resolve the issues so that we become a strong, peaceful nation and we are all moving together. Irrespective of where we are coming from so that regionalism and ethnicity should not be the key players in deciding who comes to power,” he said.

And when asked why it was important to have issue based campaigns, Prof Phiri said it was vital for the followers to have information.

“We the citizens must know what the issues are. When we are talking about issue based campaigns, the citizens, the ordinary people must also be engaged so that when we are on the ground, we are able to discuss how we assist our leaders to be part of the team that is going to transform this country? So we will be discussing ideas, it is based on those ideas that we can say these are the agenda. This is what we want to do,” he said.

When further asked if he was confident that politics of insults and name calling would not happen this year, Prof Phiri said he expected an element of change.

“One can say yes, there will be an element of change. The pronouncements that are coming from leaders are the kind of things I can say give me some level of confidence. What is important is that when the leaders have spoken, it is expected that the followers in the structures of the political parties do not engage in violence and name calling. This requires that the leaders themselves be the first not to tolerate any member of the party who engages in these vices,” said Prof Phiri.

Meanwhile, one caller only identified as Brother Namanda said the issue of character assassination was as a result of lack of ideas and that people should instead focus on how the economy would be driven.

Our Zambia, is an Oxfam and CSPOG governance platform that brings citizens and experts together to share knowledge, experiences, and speak to power on issues affecting the nation.

Watch the full interview below: