THERE is need to respect other people, especially those who are carrying out some leadership responsibilities in our country. Ours is a multi-party state. This means that the function of governing is shared between the ruling party and the opposition. The opposition is part of government. And this is why we have always called for a "loyal opposition". We know this is a difficult concept for some to accept, especially in a country like ours where multi-party democracy has not fully taken root or matured and there are still remnants of the one-party state in the conduct and behaviour of our politicians and their cadres. The idea of a loyal opposition is a vital one, however. It means, in essence, that all sides in a multi-party democracy share a common commitment to its basic values. Political competitors in a multi-party political dispensation do not necessarily have to like each other, but they must tolerate one another and acknowledge that each has a legitimate and important role to play.
Moreover, the ground rules of society must encourage tolerance and civility in the way we conduct our politics. When the election is over, the losers accept the judgment of the voters. No matter who wins, both sides should co-operate in solving the common problems of society.
Those in the opposition have duties to perform and must be allowed adequate space to participate in public life, with the knowledge that their role is essential in any multi-party democracy worthy of the name.
And they are being asked to be loyal not to the specific policies of the ruling party, but to the fundamental legitimacy of the state, and to the multi-party democratic process itself.
Looking at things this way, we cannot understand how PF cadres could treat Hakainde Hichilema, the president of the opposition UPND, with such disrespect and lack of civility. There was no need for them to try and harass Hakainde in such a manner at a state funeral that wasn't a PF function. Hakainde had the right to be there and to talk to whoever he wanted, including the press, while there.
It seems those who were harassing Hakainde did not hear or understand the message delivered by Michael Sata, the President of our Republic and the leader of the PF, inside that church. Michael called for love and respect of each other. He also called for unity in the nation. It seems they also didn't understand the message delivered by Dr Kenneth Kaunda on the same issue.
It is clear that these thugs masquerading as PF cadres harassing innocent people; these rogues have no place in our multi-party democracy. Boma, being in government without civility, boma, being in government without the ability to live in peace with others is meaningless boma. Being in government means being in a position to take care of the interests of all, including of those in the opposition. And this calls for conduct that engenders trust and confidence.
Given where we are coming from, it is understandable that some people in the opposition are anxious about how they will be treated by those they used to insult and abuse who are now in government, they are anxious about the future and they need to be made to feel secure. There is need to remind the PF cadres that their party's victory in the last elections was not meant to be a ticket or an opportunity for harassing others, especially the losers who were their opponents.
All Zambians, regardless of their political affiliations, must now unite and join hands and give Michael and his government all the necessary support they need to deliver. This is so because we are one country, one nation, one people, marching together into the future.
Harassment of others, vindictiveness can do only one thing, and that is to breed resentment and contempt for the PF and its leaders. We hope our cadres in all our political parties will reach a stage when they realise that intolerance against anyone, harassment of others and the use of violence against anyone is something that puts them next to animals.
The politics that characterised the MMD rule should be made a thing of the past and be regarded as a barbaric thing, wherever it comes from. Intolerance, lack of respect for others pollutes the atmosphere of human relations and poisons the minds of the backward, the bigoted and the prejudiced.
We should never again allow what we saw under the MMD rule where political violence became the order of the day and those in the opposition had to stay away from attending funerals of their friends who were part of the ruling MMD. We should never again allow our country to play host to such type of intolerance and violence.
Such behaviours must be consciously combated and not discreetly tolerated. We say this because we have seen many political leaders in our country, including Hakainde himself, tolerate their cadres' harassment of others. We were being told in that church yesterday to love one another, to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us.
Lack of respect for others, intolerance, the harassment of others can never be said to be anywhere near what was being preached in that church yesterday. What is even worse is that Hakainde's harassment was being done in front of that holy church.
We urge the leadership of the PF to find the elements who were behind that unacceptable conduct and deal with them. We urge all our political parties to educate their cadres to respect and tolerate others.
This behaviour has continued because it is being encouraged and tolerated by the leadership of our political parties. When it's happening to others, it's okay. It's only wrong when it's happening to them.
It must be wrong regardless of who is the perpetrator or the victim as long as they are human beings deserving respect and compassion.
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