WE hope the decision makers in the country’s major political parties will take the warning by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) seriously.
That it would mete out stiff punishment, that could include disqualificiation or suspension of the two major parties – Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND) – for being major perpetrators of violence.
The warning is timely coming at a time that the nation has witnessed ugly scenes of violence and callous lawlessness in some parts of the country.
What is even more disappointing is that while for example the PF leadership has condemned the violence and encouraged its supporters to carry out peaceful campaigns, the UPND top brass has been mute.
Clearly, Zambians do not want violence in the run up to the August 12 general elections. They want to be allowed to go about their lives in peace amidst the campaigns.
Yes, although the stakes are high not only for those seeking high political office but for the rest of the nation, it is not an excuse to resort to violence to influence voters.
If anything, violence leaves the would-be voter dissuaded from participating in the electoral process and actually denies a deserving candidate a precious vote.
In his warning to the political parties yesterday, the ECZ Chief Electoral Officer, Mr Kryticous Nshindano, was quite frank when he explained about the punitive action can could be taken against the culprits.
Mr Nshindano warned that the PF and UPND are risking their respective organisations against applicable sanctions in the law, including disqualification.
“From now henceforth, the Commission will be following the activities of both the PF and UPND with keen interest and should this continue, both parties risk being suspended,” he said.
“The Commission would like to categorically state that it will not hesitate to invoke the Electoral Process Act and suspend indefinitely all manner of physical campaigns for the two political parties should these violent acts continue,” Mr Nshindano warned.
Some of the violence that has been seen are clearly unacceptable.
Consider the mayhem caused in Lusaka’s Mandevu constituency on Thursday when the UPND president Mr Hakainde Hichilema staged a campaign roadshow.
A vehicle was set on fire and a retail outlet run by Yalelo Fisheries looted because it had a PF poster pasted on the premises, let alone the terror infringed on other motorists who did not “give away” to the entourage.
We agree with Deputy Inspector General of Police for operations Charity Katanga that traffic police officers must control road shows and ensure that they adhere to traffic regulations, saying it was lawlessness for people doing road shows with a convoy of 100 motor vehicles.
“These road shows are being abused in many ways and this is why the police and traffic officers must ensure that they are alert. These people doing road shows must observe rules and should not inconvenience other road users,” said Ms Katanga when she addressed senior police officers in Kitwe yesterday.
Political parties are signatories to the Electoral Code of Conduct and their leaders must demonstrate leadership qualities by ensuring that their supporters do not break the law, let alone attacking police officers.
Let campaigns be violent-free so that no political party can be punished then turn around and cry foul.