The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) Press Statement on Violence in the lead up to the 19th August, 2014 Parliamentary and Local Government By-Elections
The Southern African Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) would like to acknowledge and condemn the violence that has characterized the ongoing campaigns for parliamentary and local government elections in western province and other parts of the country. It is regrettable and unfortunate that as a country we continue to experience some form of violence whenever we have by-elections. This is an indication that there is need for all our political stakeholders to continue and increase the extent to which they embrace divergent political views. This requires that we have political players that need to continue exhibiting the highest levels of tolerance and embrace co-existence of one another. As SACCORD we believe that when political stakeholders focus on sharing their ideas and manifestos to the electorate it helps reduce incidences of violence because people will be focused on issues and making an informed decision in terms of which candidates and political parties are advancing ideas that resonate with the electorate.
In addition to the above, there are a number of steps that SACCORD believes would help political parties prioritize peace in their campaigns all the way up to poll day and thereafter. One of the major practices that has manifested in violence even in Western province is the ferrying of political cadres from Lusaka to areas where by-elections are taking place. The nation is fully aware of the negative effects of such a practice as the violence that characterized the 2010 Mufumbwe by-election is still fresh on the mind of many Zambians. Therefore, as SACCORD we want to appeal to all political parties to stop or desist from engaging in this practice as much as possible as it is a clear and present danger as a source of political violence and conflict.
In a representative democracy such as Zambia which demands that political parties canvass for votes, there is need for political players to respect each other’s campaigns. This requires that once it is known to all stakeholders that a political party will hold a meeting or a rally in a designated place it is very important for everyone to respect that space as not doing so leads to outrage and ultimately violence. We appeal to political parties to ensure that they follow up on exhibiting the highest levels of respect as they campaign.
The Zambia Police Service as custodians of law and order must take decisive action irrespective of political affiliation of perpetrators of violence. Furthermore, there is need for the Zambia police to work very closely with political parties so as to continue strengthening and building confidence among each other.
As SACCORD, we would also like to appeal to all political stakeholders to observe the electoral code of conduct. This code is put in place so as to allow a conducive environment that allows for holding of free, fair, credible and peaceful elections. Therefore, it is incumbent upon all political stakeholders to observe this code so that violence is not given room to take root and thereby disadvantage the electorate as they would feel intimidated to come out en masse and exercise their right to vote.
We hope that political leaders will seriously condemn violence in the campaigns as violence only breeds violence. Furthermore, violence also leaves untold damage to human and physical property which is retrogressive to a democracy that is maturing and seeks to be better.