Friday, October 08, 2010
By The Post
Fri 08 Oct. 2010, 04:00 CAT
The filing of nominations for the Mpulungu and Chilanga parliamentary by-elections marks the beginning of heated campaigns. Although these elections may be tightly contested, it is not necessary for anyone to resort to violence and other acts of intimidation.
But we doubt that Rupiah Banda and his friends are committed to free and fair elections. We all know now that when they are desperate to win a seat, as seems to be the case in the current round of by-elections, they resort to violence.
Already, even before the ink dries on the nomination papers, there are reports of violence in Chilanga. This violence needs to be condemned in the strongest possible terms. We also saw MMD-perpetrated violence in Solwezi.
Nothing was done about the MMD cadres that engaged in acts of violence. It was clear in that election that the MMD wanted to keep as many people as they could away from the polling stations so that the election could be poorly attended, which they thought would work to their advantage.
Their desperation was heightened in the Mufumbwe by-election where they unleashed a worrying level of violence that sent even the chief of police, the disgraced Francis Kabonde, taking cover. We all know that nothing has happened to any MMD cadre that was involved in that violence.
It is also clear that the cadres that were involved in that almost unprecedented level of violence were bussed into Mufumbwe from Lusaka. Rupiah’s MMD literally took a militia into Mufumbwe to go and pummel their opponents.
To add insult to injury, Rupiah himself turned around and blamed the violence on the opposition. Kabonde’s police, who are now used to acting on Rupiah’s cue, swung into action and arrested opposition members including UPND Solwezi Central member of parliament Watson Lumba.
It is a well known fact that MMD were the protagonists in the violence that characterised the Mufumbwe by-election. We continue to marvel that they have chosen to remain silent about the attack on Zambezi West UPND member of parliament Charles Kakoma. We must never allow these facts to be forgotten.
We should not allow violence to become an acceptable part of our politics to the extent where a senior opposition figure is attacked and the government remains quiet.
But we should all understand why the government remains quiet when the question of violence connected to their party is discussed: Rupiah condones violence. It is a tool that he is prepared to use if he thinks that it is going to benefit him politically.
The appointment of William Banda as a key member of the campaign team for the Chilanga parliamentary by-election is a clear indication that the MMD is prepared to unleash violence. William Banda has never been known for conducting peaceful political activities.
His stock in trade is violence against those that he believes to be opponents of his political masters. This is what he did in UNIP and this is what he continues to do in the MMD. It is therefore clear that the Chilanga by-election is highly unlikely to be a peaceful affair.
We should not accept this kind of political activity. But on the other hand, those who are involved in that by-election should take note that it is unlikely to be an ordinary election. People like William Banda should know that a day of reckoning will come.
His new-found friend Frederick Chiluba ended at deporting him; but William Banda’s continued propensity for violence may earn him more than deportation.
But it is not difficult to understand the arrogance of people like William Banda. They are under the protection of Rupiah himself. This is why Rupiah has failed to comment on the threats from the Copperbelt by MMD member Chiko Chibale to unleash a militia on Mongu Catholic Diocese Bishop Paul Duffy.
This chap has told the nation that being commander of the MMD militia on the Copperbelt, he will send it to Western Province to go and attack Bishop Duffy. Bishop Duffy’s only sin was to say that the people of Western Province are ready for change.
The MMD as a party has decided that this is an insult on their president, and are justified in unleashing a militia. If the MMD, as stated by their own member Chibale, have a militia, what hope is there for peaceful political activity?
If the ruling party is preparing for violence by creating militias, what are they saying to the opposition? We continue to be surprised by Rupiah’s irresponsibility. He has failed to call his cadres to order by telling them that he won’t accept violence from them and ensure that those who break the law are dealt with firmly.
We have gone back to comment on this matter yet again because now the MMD, through Ndola district vice publicity and information secretary Alex Mubanga, has told the nation that Chibale’s militia action threats against Bishop Duffy were not words of a demented fellow; they have the blessing of the party.
Why should party officials be so brave as to make such startling threats and confirmation of threats in the press without any fear? They know that their president enjoys it when they talk like that, and he will support their work.
To Rupiah, having such a militia is a legitimate right of a political organisation. What this means is that the words and threats being spoken by MMD party officials have the blessing and sanction of Rupiah himself. Rupiah does not see anything wrong with the MMD maintaining and financing a militia.
We have no doubt that he finances these young people to carry out all sorts of political dirty work. What Rupiah is forgetting is that violence begets violence and in the end, no one wins. If Rupiah were a responsible leader, he would ensure the disbandment of that militia and any other militias that they have created.
He would ensure that the party cadres who are threatening violence are dealt with by the law. But the law is not being used to secure our peace and security. It is there to fix Rupiah’s enemies. This is why even after the police pretend to be doing some work and call Chibale to appear before them, he is able to defy them. Just the other day, Chibale was boasting that he had no regrets about the comments that he made.
This man was coming from the police, and he could dare to declare that his threats of violence were nothing to apologise for. But we should all understand what this pathetic fellow is saying; he is merely reminding us that he works for the office of the president and is therefore well protected. We appeal to our people not to accept the kind of impunity that Rupiah would like them to accept. It seems that to Rupiah, all that matters are his political and other benefits. And he will get them regardless of the law.
If it means using the likes of Chibale and using his presidency to protect them, he will do it. This is unfortunate indeed. A president carelessly condoning and failing to speak out against violence when his own political party members threaten all sorts of things remains the worst form of dereliction of duty.
As we go into the by-elections, our people should not be tempted to resort to violence. Rupiah should be defeated in an honourable way even if he himself may have no honour.
There is no way that a person in his position can condone violence and still be honourable. Kabonde and his crew must redeem themselves and ensure that they stop violence regardless of who is perpetrating it. They should not repeat the shameful conduct they exhibited in Mufumbwe. They should know that if they allow violence to escalate in our country, it will engulf them.
If it does not engulf them, it will engulf their relatives and friends. Rupiah as President should not take peace for granted. Allowing his cadres to continue to threaten violence and to maintain militia groups will land him in more trouble than he already is in. By disregarding our people and their laws, Rupiah has put himself in a lot of trouble, and one day he will have to pay.
We are not prophets but we have seen these things before and can say with some certainty that Rupiah’s disregard for the law will land him in serious trouble. His love for violence will also land him in serious trouble. A president who actively or tacitly encourages violence is an irresponsible president. Unfortunately, this is what Rupiah is.