Voice of Reason

THE striking contrasts between those political party leaders advocating for and against violence-free campaigns as well as consequential elections can clearly be noted.

It is from their manner of speech and actions that their stance is made known to the electorate and distant political observers on the unfolding events in our political sphere. Presidential candidates, in this case, act as flag bearers of what their political parties hold as a set of beliefs, values and customs to stand for as Zambia heads to the polls next month.

One cannot claim to have it both ways. It is either you are for or against peaceful means of doing things.

The initiative by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to call for a meeting at which all presidential candidates participating in this year’s general elections were to show commitment towards ending political violence, by signing a Peace Accord, was a progressive step towards holding credible, free and fair elections.

It cannot be interpreted as mere coincidence for the convenor of the meeting, ECZ chairperson Justice Esau Chulu and the United Nations Resident Coordinator, Ms Janet Rogan, to have their messages resonate on the higher responsibility that political party leaders should to end political violence.

And we think that the United Party for National Development (UPND) leader, Mr Hakainde Hichilema, particularly, missed an opportunity to show leadership when refused to sign the Peace Accord to demonstrate his commitment to end political violence knowing that his party has been at the centre of the scourge. This was a big mistake!

On the other hand, the Patriotic Front (PF) presidential candidate, Mr Edgar Lungu yet again got a thumps up for committing himself and his party, together with others, for walking the talk by signing the Peace Accord.

The electorate are observing all this and deciding on which of the political leaders can be trusted to keep their word.

Who are Mr Hichilema’s political advisors? Does he realise that back tracking on efforts to ensure that political violence is stamped out only portrays him in bad light? Does it mean Mr Hichilema downplayed the challenge on party leaders to end political violence put forward by both ECZ chairperson and UN Resident Coordinator?

The incessant impetus to deliberately choose not to speak and act in accordance with the recognised means of solving the problem at hand makes right thinking electorate wonder whether the opposition leader understands that it is the people of Zambia who have the final say on who becomes President after 11th August, 2016, and not his political advisors.

If he does realise this, then he must have adhered to the timely reminder from the UN Resident Coordinators when she stated that: “The overriding responsibility for a successful election lies with political party leaders, as they are in a position to encourage their supporters to engage in proper, peaceful behaviour…Their commitment to peaceful conduct and playing by the rules will largely define the actions and attitudes of their supporters.”

The UPND leader, together with other opposition political party leaders who did not show commitment to sign the Peace Accord, ought to be reminded that the purpose of elections is to ascertain the will of the people regarding their government. Elections are by the people and for the people in a democratic dispensation.

The sooner the UPND leader realises this, the better for the party because he is mincing his chances of remaining relevant beyond next month’s general elections.