On Thursday, vice-president of the opposition UPND, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba told residents in Chilanga to prepare their machetes and hack any member of the ruling party who will provoke them. He categorically told the youths that the Chilanga parliamentary by-election would be panga for panga, an eye for an eye.

“Mwebena Chilanga twalabomba naimwe muli iyi one month yaisa. Tatulefwaya nokukokola kuno ilelo pantu tu PF twalaisa kuno mukupanga ichongo. Lelo ifwe ngabatupanga ichongo nabeshiba ati tulebaponona, nabeshiba ati natuipekenya naifwe. Filya bailetuchita ku Luapula nakumuchinga, batubutusha ubushiku bonse…bane kuno naisa mukumyeba ukuti ni panga for panga. Where someone cuts off your ear, even the Bible says you should retaliate. So naimwe kubacita ifyo fine aini babe? (We are going to work with all of you Chilanga residents during this coming month for campaigns. And we don’t even want to take long here because we know that the PF will come and cause chaos. But even if they do, they know that we are going to beat them up because we are also prepared now. The way they treated us in Luapula and Muchinga provinces where they made us run the whole night…I am here to tell you that this time around it will be panga for panga. Where someone cuts off your ear, cut off there’s as well because even the Bible teaches us to retaliate. So you should also do to them what they do to you),” said GBM.

We were saddened to hear a leader of the biggest opposition political party in the country, giving orders for youths to engage in bloodshed. Under normal circumstances, one would expect to hear a leader in GBM’s position discouraging violence and mounting pressure on the law enforcement wings to act. One would expect to see a concerned party protesting against the Electoral Commission of Zambia and challenging it to disqualify culprits.

But much as we were saddened to hear this declaration for war in Chilanga, we were not shocked. We understand the background and we know why GBM was inciting residents to retaliate. Just last month, the PF won a majority of the local government by-elections, including in areas where the UPND is predominant. According to the opposition party, this was only made possible because PF cadres took over the poling stations and chassed out election observers.

In Kawambwa, police had to intervene and rescue UPND national chairperson Mutale Nalumango after she was besieged by Luapula Province Minister Nickson Chilangwa and his boys. Elsewhere in Luapula, UPND officials and journalists were forced to scamper into the bush, as they fled from violent PF cadres. But the end result of all these violent activities was that the PF won and the UPND remained humiliated for losing.

To date, we have not been told of any cadre arrested for engaging in violence, the Electoral Commission declared the winners and certified the elections free and fair.

This is why GBM is urging the youths to sharpen their pangas and fight back in order to defend the Chilanga seat. We have to make it very clear that although we understand the frustration that the UPND is facing, we condemn GBM’s statement for one reason. The UPND is not an innocent political party where violence is concerned.

Those who engage in violence use the excuse of self-defence. That’s the card UPND is playing. But we know that’s not true. We are aware that what the ruling Patriotic Front was doing to UPND officials in Luapula is exactly what the opposition party was doing to PF in Choma.

These two political parties thrive on violence. They rely on it to win elections in their strongholds. That is why in our previous editorial comment, following the results of the local government by-election, we shamed those who were celebrating victory from a hacking competition.

On the other hand, much as we would like to condemn the PF and the UPND, this trend of violent campaigns is an indictment on the police and the Electoral Commission of Zambia. It is a sign that the law is absent in this country, where elections are concerned.

We have seen Mr Kakoma Kanganja trying to be proactive by deploying multitudes of police officers in Chilanga to combat violence, but we wonder which country the Inspector General of Police lives in because police officers have always been present when people are hacking each other. In fact, it is the police officers who exacerbate the situation by applying the law selectively.

What the people of Chilanga need is a member of parliament and not to shed blood. It is a pity that the PF and UPND will transport thugs to go and distabilise the peace in Chilanga, making the residents suffer instead of showing them love.

We are appealing for peaceful campaigns in Chilanga. If it were GBM and his children going to fight Davies Mwila and his family, we probably wouldn’t spend so much time begging them to reason, but those youths who are being encouraged to engage in panga for panga campaigns are innocent citizens who will risk their lives but gain nothing.

This by-election has brought out very interesting candidates and the people of Chilanga have very serious decisions to make. Let the competitors engage in sober debates so that the losers can lose peacefully without blaming it on violence.