Zambia Political Violence and The Hell of Political Cadres

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Police officers (right) try to control suspected riotous UPND cadres at Woodlands police station in Lusaka
Police officers (right) try to control suspected riotous UPND cadres at Woodlands police station in Lusaka

By Honorable Brown Chibale Kotoka Kapika

Zambia political violence has become a central part of political competition across the nation, and it takes many forms—from assaults to armed clashes between gangs called cadres employed by rival politicians from the ruling PF and opposition political party UPND. This violence is most often carried out by gangs called cadres whose members are openly recruited and paid by politicians and party leaders to attack their sponsors’ rivals, intimidate members of the public, rig elections, and protect their patrons from similar attacks.

Alongside the gangs themselves, the individuals most responsible for the abuses they commit are politicians and party officials—from all parties—who sponsor and at times openly participate in acts of violence. The architects, sponsors, and perpetrators of this violence generally enjoy complete impunity because of both the powers of intimidation they wield and the tacit acceptance of their conduct by police and government officials.

The Human Rights Impact of Political Violence

The pervasive role of violence in Zambian politics has a devastating human rights impact on ordinary Zambians. Thousands of Zambians have been deprived of their very right to life or have been subjected to physical assaults because of the violent nature of political competition in Zambia. But casualty estimates, considered alone, actually understate the scale of the human rights impact of political violence in Zambia. Violence also discourages and prevents political participation and plays a central role in denying ordinary Zambians a say in choosing their “elected” leaders.

Losing Control of Violence

Violence unleashed by politicians and their sponsors during Zambia general elections and other periods of political contestation does not simply fade away once the political battles have been decided. In many cases violence fomented for the purpose of winning elections has taken on a life and logic of its own and continued to generate widespread human rights abuses over the long term. Several Zambian towns and cities have been plagued by enduring violence after politicians either abandon or lose control over the gangs they initially employed. The attitude towards them [political thugs / cadres] is that they are like rabid dogs. They are prepared to bite their owner and their owners cannot be confident or sure of keeping them on a leash.

Politicians, Cults and Gangs

Political violence in Zambia is most often carried out by gangs / cadres whose members are openly recruited, financed and sometimes armed by public officials, politicians and party officials or their representatives. These gangs, comprised primarily of unemployed young men are mobilized to attack their sponsors’ rivals, intimidate members of the public, rig elections and protect their patrons from similar attacks. Often, sponsors of political violence turn time and again to the same criminal gangs, violent campus-based “cults” and other sources to recruit agents of political violence. Those recruited are paid, often very little, and sometimes armed for the sole purpose of carrying out violent abuses on behalf of their political sponsors.

Other Perpetrators of Political Violence

In some cases, members of the police have themselves been implicated in acts of political violence. There are policemen in Zambia who are being used by people in power to do what thugs would normally do.

Justifying and Taking Violence for Granted

Many Zambian politicians see violence—both as an offensive weapon and as a component of personal security—as a necessary part of any political campaign, and elections too are connected to how much money you have put into your ability to intimidate others. And some politicians argue that they must maintain some capacity to unleash violence as a measure of self-defense. And too it is not possible to have a campaign without your boys. If you are around, they too must be around.

In practice the line between self-defense and violent aggression is blurred at best. In other cases, Zambian politicians explain their use of political violence by pointing out the ineffectual or partisan response of law-enforcement agencies to violence that targets them.

And it goes on and on by revenging ‘I will fight back. If the law will not address the issue I will fight back using the same means…If the law fails to address the issue I would mobilize thugs too. There are boys that I know. I don’t like them, but it’s not that anybody has a monopoly on violence. Anybody can do it. Students are waiting to be mobilized’.

By Honorable Brown Chibale Kotoka Kapika
President for ‘Adedo – Zamucano Political Party (Zambia)
President for ‘Partij voor de Burgerlijke en Mensenrechten’ Political Party (Netherlands)

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23 COMMENTS

  1. Pf’s lusaka times trying hard to depict upnd as violent party by coming up with a picture which when you analyze it properly it just shows a group of people trying to air the grievances, there a lot of pictures videos of pf thugs on social media burning opposition party regalia, wielding pangas and stones, stripping women naked etc, that would have made sense than that picture of normal people trying to put across their thoughts in a serious debate, people talk to find solutions.

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    • That is very true. LT also hides it’s PF affiliations very well but they are forced to print seemingly negative news of PF only because that is the only news in town or they will have no news to print.

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    • It’s silly, most bloggers here are UPND, they blog enmass and intimidate capable and able bloggers with written offensive pretend debate. They rage through all the stories on the blog fencing and fending off other contributors. They manipulate the Marking system by blogging enmass and upping their numbers among themselves and down marking capable truth intelligent bloggers. It’s not surprising to find someone who has a one line in response to an UPND fellow comment to gave more points than a well thought out written in use piece!! At elections they turn up in massive numbers being intimidating to bloggers who write favourably on the opposition!

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    • *****s! What are you doing here? LT this LT what. Why dont you Go to watchdog or zambia intelligence news or post?
      Given the current polarised policital state LT is fair kost of you are anti PF swines!

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    • These PF gangs will be disbanded on August 1 when HH is declared Head of State. Don’t worry be happy but vote wisely to actualise this dream.

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    • PF LT and Katoka show the Pictures were a PF cadre was almost raping a woman on youth day in Lusaka In full view of everyone including police and yet nothing happened.People know who these dirty stinking cold blooded killers are.PF you have killed the economy and now you want to kill us physically.

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  2. Violent activities must be condemned with the contempt they deserve across the political divide failure to which the country may experience full-blown skirmishes during or after the elections. A stitch in time saves nine.

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  3. This article has no meaning and not close to the truth. Call a spade a spade and not a big spoon!
    LT be professional. I am beginning to lose interest in reading your articles.

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    • Until recently, like a month ago, LT was my online news of choice. Not anymore. They are as shrewd as a serpent. LT is another extension or Zambia Reports. Useless, biased liars. You can support your useless PF all you want. One day you will be sorry.

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    • We’ll spotted, it’s effectively a made up propaganda piece for the writer. Likely to be NGO sponsored or EU sponsored activity.

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  4. Our refusal to courageously call on Pres Lungu to stop this violence makes us accomplices. Its only him who can stop the violence by caging his perpetrators of violence like Kamba, Frank Bwalya, Lusambo, etc. The plastic statements he issues do not help. Its not politicians leading in this violence, its common criminals. The day Kadansa loses they will jump ship. Pres Lungu for once be Head of State please. Stop the habit of raising your fist at every occasion.

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  5. The truth be told in no uncertain terms. PF and UPND have violent cadres who should be eliminated from the political scene. The police should castrate these animals wherever they exist and lock them up when they are caught in the act. Militant attire and weapons should be banned wholeheartedly without reservations. No region should be declared a no go area for anybody. We need firm leadership from ECL and HH on this, otherwise I will label and consider both of them as potential war criminals if they remain muted.

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  6. In this country there is nothing like ruling or opposition. Where this Cadres business is concerned, they are all the same. It does not matter whether UPND has committed two political violences and PF 20, the nature is the same. The mentality of these so called Cadres is the same. What needs to be dealt with is this useless wing of stupid and ignorant violent supporters. Do away with Cadres and we will be safe. If people think UPND WILL BE DIFFERENT WHEN IT COMES TO POWER THEN THEY WILL BE IN FOR A RUDE SHOCK. We have seen it before. In UNIP days there was even the term BY AIR, where innocent people would be roughly handled lift up like a weightless bag of paper. MMD came, we saw it, PF complained but MMD WAS THE MASTER. We thought PF WOULD BE DIFFERENT. PEOPLE VOTED IN MULTITUDES FOR…

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    • Exactly @Adage and SATA MICHEAL was the commander of the BY AIR team. I was one of the people that was lifted BY AIR at Lusaka town center bus stop when we staged a two man protest against the shortage of transport.

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  7. Exactly what I’m saying Adage. Violence tremendously reduced during Levy’s years because as head of state he never tolerated hooliganism among his so called cadres. The terrorists at kulima tower were eliminated. That’s why I’m saying if Pres Lungu was courageous enough to cage his known hooligans, UPND will have no one to fight with. These hooligans are in it for the money they make & will join whoever wins as long as he protects them. Just look at them, they are the same people who were vigilantes, they became Sata’s mercenaries during the third term war, they jumped on Rupiah’s bandwagon & are now with Lungu.

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    • Yes but truely, we have another new element. HH has brought with him an Barotse Land agenda and has usurped their ‘power through violence’ philosophy.

      In fact his new addition to political violence is organised crime against the state.

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    • I agree. They are opportunists. Of crumbs unfortunately.

      The phenomenon present in most African countries.

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  8. It’s clear mist people agree Cadre activities both PF and UPND are unacceptable especially where they lead with violence and are Militia. The problem of Cadreism came in with Multiparty politics. Because of poverty most Zambian opposition parties uphold the code “Get Rich(in power) or Die Trying'” [50 Cent, Rapper].

    The article is weak, it mostly makes unfounded allegations against gov’t and seemingly justifies opposition violence through Cadres as a justifiable reaction to gov’t power. The Human Rights case against Gov’t is weak and is an attempt to propaganda against the current gov’t waving the over used Human Rights claims, which mostly is only between politicians not aimed at the public at large although it’s accepted innocent non cadre citizens get caught up in their…

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  9. Innocent non cadre citizens get caught in the violent outbreaks between party clashes.

    I have some disquiet on noticing the sign off of the individual, which seems to suggest he is an international Politician operating in multi countries! This is worrying and us the reason the gov’t should have held off Dual nationality. Apart from Cadre violence we are witnessing the interference of Foreign sponsored agenda in Zambian politics. It’s a real threat that our political rights/ democracy will be manipulated by the usual ring of EU and USA who try to decide whom they want in power in countries of interest.

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    • But the article is mostly good Storytelling, it might be a good modern version of Romeo and Juliet’s ‘gangs,’ ‘The Montague’s and Capulets’ except in this case there ain’t no love lost!

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  10. Going down memory lane, one remembers that this thuggery culture was started by Michael Sata. He started recruiting thugs from the Copperbelt, buying them dagga since he himself was a heavy dagga smoker, bought them catapults and then took them to different provinces and unleashed violence on innocent people. That is how he came into power. Violence was started by the PF. Edgar Lungu just continued where Sata left and he even made it worse by buying them pangas, spears and guns.
    The people who are not calling a spade spade are not honest to themselves but are in themselves condoning the violence. Why generalize as though all parties are perpetrators of violence? It would not be surprising if Lungu and his cohorts find themselves at the International court. God is watching!!

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  11. all it takes for violence to stop is for the head of state to ensure the law is applied. this nosense of boma ni boma creates a vicious cycle of others feeling oppressed whilst others are going free with astrocities. Keneddy Kamba issued isntructions to have the UPND beaten he is still a free man. now when the opoosition go after the ‘throats’ of the ruling party you arrest them. now i have come to see that the police are decampaigning the PF and PF is blind to this fact

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Comments are closed.