The key to curb electoral violence in Zambia has always been in the hands of the ruling party, says Alliance for Better Zambia (ABZ) president Frank Bwalya.
Fr Bwalya said it had always been the responsibility of the party in government to curb political violence from the time the country reverted to multiparty democracy.
“ABZ is convinced that if the ruling party, PF in this case, chooses the path of clean campaigns and avoid electoral malpractices including abuse of state resources, peace would characterize our elections. This will enhance democracy and good governance in our country,” Fr Bwalya said.
He said in a statement that the opposition in Zambia did not have resources to mobilize people to engage in violence on large scale adding that the Police Service had demonstrated capacity to deal firmly with the opposition and deterred perpetration of violence.
Fr Bwalya said that it was unfortunately that the Police Service often failed to arrest violent cadres and their sponsors in PF which has resulted into violent cadres and common criminals sponsored by the ruling party to cause havoc under the banner of “Boma ni Boma”.
It was rare that criminals from the ruling party were arrested because senior government officials would often phone the police to give instructions for their release.
“What we have also seen over the years is that cadres from the ruling party instigate violence as they provoke the opposition with impunity. In some cases this happens right under the nose of armed police officers,
“On the other hand some opposition parties try to use force to stop abuse of public resources such as government vehicles. Such attempts have led to violent clashes. This again is an example of failure by relevant state institutions including the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to do their job,” Fr Bwalya explained.
Fr Bwalya has made a passionate appeal to PF top leaders to show leadership and take the simple steps needed to end electoral violence.
He said the steps that could be taken to curb political violence included accepting that in a democracy, a political party in power should always use civil means to win votes and upholding the rule of law as the only guarantee for justice and peace.
“We challenge the PF to lead the way by conducting peaceful campaigns and respecting the democratic choices of our people. Voters should never be made to pay with their blood for supporting the opposition,” Fr Bwalya said.
Fr Bwalya has also appealed to opposition political parties to exercise maximum restraint when provoked and advised that the opposition must never allow themselves to participate in sacrificing peace at the altar through political expedience and narrow partisan interests.