The political violence the people of Zambia are subjected to is tolerated, facilitated and encouraged by the actions and behaviour of those wielding state power. The violence is, however, still at a level where state institutions could quickly and decisively stop it – if it were not for their compliance.
The brutal beating of opposition party cadres, journalists, school children and stripping of women experienced last Saturday is just the beginning of worse things to come. It will get out of hand as we come closer to the Election Day. The aim is to intimidate and subdue the opposition political parties and all disserting views and create an environment under which the PF’s chances of wining the August 11 elections are enhanced.
Violence is therefore being systematically employed as a tool to win elections.
As socialists, we are not naïve about our stand on violence. We do not regard violence as a matter of principle to be supported or opposed. Violence is a mere tool, that is, a means to an end and can be used by anyone. It is critical to examine who is using it and for what. Socialists would support violent mass uprisings where such are meant to defend lives and end tyrannical rule – Just as this country supported the armed liberation struggles in Southern Africa. Even Mahatma Gandhi, the nonviolence personality, remarked that “I do believe that, where there is only a choice between cowardice and violence, I would advise violence…I would rather have India resort to arms in order to defend her honour than that she should, in a cowardly manner, become or remain a helpless witness to her own dishonour.”
As Zambians, we live in a neo-liberal capitalist system that is economically, politically, socially and culturally unfair to the majority of our people. It is a system that would not last an hour without the laws and “bodies of armed men and women” that protect it day and night. Our ruling class has a monopoly over the use of force and violence and uses it without being restraint. As if this is not enough, more violence has to be facilitated to buttress the ruling class’ chances of winning elections.
However, the threshold of what citizens can tolerate will soon be reached in Zambia. There is growing anger and disgust over this senseless violence. A simple spark will soon or later set this whole country ablaze and no police or army will be able to control it. It will lead to total anarchy and mayhem.
The sooner the PF government realises that they are setting this country, and even themselves, on a quick destruction mode the better. There is only so much pain the human body and mind can endure. Trying to instil fear through violence is a double-edged tactic; people can be forced into submission but can also start fighting back. Where the masses are poor and marginalised, like in our country, any level of organised mass resistance will spell doom for the ruling class. Let them learn lessons from history and from the current civil wars world over.