THERE is tension in the air as Zambia officially opens its electoral campaigns for the August elections, Margaret Kangwa Pikiti, Socialist Party parliamentary candidate for Malole constituency, says.

“The shocking political violence of the August 2016 elections still haunts the nation’s collective memory, and Zambians are all too aware of the potential electoral-related violence that could befall the nation,” she said.

Pikiti said images of political cadres using physical and psychological violence against their political opponents were still fresh in the mind. “This troubling departure from most previous elections left many wondering, so how did we get here? Where is the nation that bears the slogan, ‘One Zambia, One Nation’? Where is the nation whose identity is forged in being a ‘peaceful nation’? Where is the nation that fought for the political and economic freedom of its people and southern Africa at large? Where are the people who demanded multiparty democracy in 1991? Where are the people who fought against an unconstitutional attempt for a third presidential term in 2001?”

She said it was perhaps redundant to ask the question “how did we get here?” without looking at the political and socioeconomic context. “For how can one expect peace to prevail without the pillar of social justice? How can peace prevail in a country where most young people live in absolute poverty? Is it really any wonder that they are vulnerable to political manipulation by the elite? The nation clearly has much to reckon with following the elections if any lasting peace is to be achieved.”

Pikiti asked how peace could be maintained with such fragile foundations. “We must unite in our striving for a better country for all,” she said. “We must remember we are not enemies but one people with different opinions about how we want our country to be run. As such, the responsibility of peace falls on all of us.”

She said it was important for everyone to be mindful of their rhetoric and behaviour during this period. “We implore the political class to refrain from inciting or using violence of any form during this campaign season. We appeal to the current ruling party to maintain the rule of law. We also plead with the public to work with the police to maintain peace and security in the country. Let peace and freedom reign.”

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