Last weekend, the Internet was awash with pictures of ruling Patriotic Front and opposition UPND leaders shaking hands after their joint press conference at the Civic Center.
We were being made to believe that there is now truce between the two political party rivals ahead of this Thursday’s Mayoral election, because they have ironed out their differences.
Under normal circumstances, we would have expected that the two parties were signing an agreement that outlined the political courtesy that they were willing to demonstrate to one another.
Surprisingly, the contents of the communiqué that the Patriotic Front and the United Party for National Development were committing to uphold was full of already existing laws that every Zambian is expected to obey.
The entire Minister of Home Affairs went to make a commitment that he would not allow PF cadres to kill members of the opposition, and his UPND counterpart also vowed that the opposition party would ensure that its cadres are disarmed. Was it unknown to the PF and the UPND that it is a crime to hack one another?
For the benefit of those who may have missed the event last week, here is a summary of what the UPND and the PF were agreeing to.
UPND deputy national youth chairperson Munji Habeenzu stated on behalf of his party:
“1. All cadres that are in possession of arms should be disarmed in both UPND and PF. These arms include guns, machetes commonly known as pangas and other offensive weapons.
2. No cadre should move around wearing masks.
3. We shall uphold high levels of tolerance in accommodating members from all political parties to freely move in their party regalia.
4. All markets and bus stations have with immediate effect been depoliticized.
5. All collection of levies should be done by local authorities than party cadres.
6. There shall be no use of motor vehicles that have number plates or bearing similar numbers like ECL 2021 or HH 2021.
Minister Stephen Kampyongo also said on behalf of the PF:
“1. We stand opposed to the view that a brother must rise against another brother, neither should any sister rise against a fellow sister.
2. The PF is committed to playing its role in countering the threat of violence before and after it has occurred.
3. We will co-operate with law enforcement agencies, in particular, the Zambia Police with investigations and assisting to bring culprits to book.
4. “We commit that all Patriotic Front leaders will use civil language during and after the campaigns and subsequent elections in order to properly guide our followers.
5. We commit to ensure our structures and communities get involved in curbing violence and the threat thereof.
6. The Patriotic Front’s leadership will use every platform and opportunity to promote non-violence among our people.
But these are the laws that, not only the PF or the UPND are expected to adhere to. It’s law in Zambia that levy from bus stations and markets will be collected by the council and not a political party; its law in Zambia that the police will arrest and prosecute criminals regardless of their political affiliation; it is already established under electoral laws that all political parties will engage in violence-free campaign.
So it was laughable to hear the PF and UPND agreeing that they would no longer break these laws. Why have they been breaking these laws in the first place? The answer is simple; it’s in their DNA.
Yes, the PF and UPND are the most violent political parties in the history of Zambia. They are both led by thugs who believe in bloodshed. Those who are new to politics may not know that the UPND and PF have previously conducted joint violent operations.
In October 2009 when the UPND was in alliance talks with the PF, the leadership of the two parties sent youths to go and attack Namwala member of parliament Robbie Chizyuka, who was accused of working with Rupiah Banda’s MMD government then.
The PF and UPND armed youths with pangas, stones and spears before unleashing them to raid ZAMCOM lodge where Major Chizyuka was in the middle of a press conference. Luckily, the retired soldier had anticipated the attack and so he fled the scene with military-like stealth, leaving journalists to get a very good beating.
The PF and UPND know each other’s violent ways very well. They have come a long way. They know nothing about peace treaties because they feed on each other’s blood. Hearing them talk about ending violence is as empty an assurance as a stomach promising never to get hungry again.
In fact, in many ways than not, the agreement from this press conference sounded like that between cartoon characters Tom and Jerry. It was a laughable peace treaty and a waste of time.
But what we would like to advise the youths of both PF and UPND is to realize that the criminals who were signing this peace treaty don’t care about them. They would never allow their own children to take part in this foolish cat and mouse game, but they enjoy seeing other people’s children shedding blood for them.
So, it is you the ordinary followers of UPND and PF who must sign this kind of peace treaty. We want to see Remmy Mukoba of UPND and Max Chongu of PF lead a campaign against violence, making a commitment never to be used by Kampyongo and Mwaliteta to engage in violence.
Only then will we see a real truce between the two warmongers. In the absence of that, Zambians must expect double the bloodshed in the 2021 general elections because the stakes are too high for both parties.