Veteran politician and former diplomat Vernon Johnson Mwaanga has warned against continued political related violence among political parties in the country.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia has prescribed Friday 20th January, 2023 as the date on which to hold Ward by-elections in Itala Ward of Lunga Town Council in Luapula Province, Kashikishi Ward of Nsama Town Council in Northern Province, Kapanda Ward of Kasama Municipal Council in Northern Province and Nyatanda Ward of Chavuma Town Council in North-Western Province.
Speaking ahead of the upcoming by elections, Dr. Mwaanga said political violence and violence of any form or shape is unacceptable.
Nominations for the said by-elections will be conducted on Thursday, 15th December, 2022.
The by-elections have arisen due to resignations of councilors in the four (4) wards.
Election related violence has been reported in some parts of the country where the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has conducted elections.
UPND and PF cadres clashed during the filing of nominations for the Mkushi Council Chairperson by-election late in October.
Dr. Mwaanga said disputed elections have been a major source of violence in many countries, particularly in Africa.
“Our country has been regarded as an oasis of peace since independence in October, 1964. This did not happen by accident. We worked for it, by making sure that ethnicity was accommodated in all arms of the government under the umbrella of one Zambia, one nation. History is replete with many examples of the damage violence can cause to nations. Disputed Elections have been a major source of violence in many countries, particularly in Africa.
“This is notwithstanding that in all modern constitutions, there is provision for those with genuine Electoral grievances and solid evidence, to have the option to go to courts of law to challenge election results. Jaw Jaw is better than War War. Violence in whatever form or shape is abominable. According to the United Nations Global Study on Homicide, 1.6 million people die from violence every year, making it one of the leading causes of death worldwide. Violence is also incredibly costly. In 2015 alone, the total cumulative impact of violence to the world economy was estimated at US$13.6 trillion at that time, a figure which was equivalent to 13.3% of world GDP,” he said.
Dr. Mwaanga, the former Minister of Information and Government Chief Whip, said politics is not war.
“Political violence is usually started by cadres of political parties, with or without the blessings of senior officials. Nearly in all political parties, there is always a rogue element. It is this element, which does not accept that in a democratic dispensation, there is room to accommodate different opinions. Politics is not war. It is about competition of ideas to serve the people. In every orderly country, there is a process for making decisions. This process allows those with dissenting views to be heard. In the final analysis, the majority must have their way. There will always be honest differences of opinions in party structures at different levels. Some of these differences arise due to lack of sufficient information or clear explanations. Those in opposition should not oppose everything proposed by the governing party. Everything should be judged on its own merits. The opposition may also come up with good ideas from time to time and the governing party should listen to them and accept those that are relevant,” Dr. Mwaanga said.
He reiterated that political violence undermines peace and stability of the country.
“Inter-party and intra party dialogue is vital in any democratic society. That is why we set up the Center for Multi-party Dialogue Some years ago, with the help of the Netherlands Institute for Multi-party Democracy, which in recent years, has become moribund. It is important for political party leaders to talk to each other and not talk at each other. Use of insulting or abusive language is equally unacceptable. As an elder, I would like to appeal to all political parties, to desist from violence and condemn all forms of violence. It undermines peace and stability. It discourages foreign investors. It also disturbs the lives of ordinary citizens, who want to be left alone to live normal lives. We fought against colonialism, because we wanted our people and I mean all our people, to live better lives, better education and health facilities, better roads, better housing , have access to clean water and put food on their family tables etc. It has been disappointing to see political leaders, who had nothing to their names, playing with a lot of money, which was ill-gotten. Financial integrity among leaders is absolutely vital. The struggle for independence was not about enriching ourselves leaders. It was about working for the people,” Dr. Mwaanga said.