PRESS STATEMENT BY THE OPPOSITION ALLIANCE ON SESHEKE BY-ELECTION VIOLENCE:
ISSUED ON SATURDAY, 9th FEBRUARY 2019 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
1. The Opposition Alliance is greatly disturbed by the conduct of both the Zambia Police Service and the PF party, which gave rise to rampant incidents of violence in the Sesheke by-election on Friday, 8th February 2019, in which several innocent citizens were seriously injured.
2. Our understanding of the events is that the Zambia Police Service tried to ban all campaign activities of the opposition in Sesheke, on account that President Lungu is visiting the District. In order to effect this ban, the Police fired teargas on all opposition campaign gatherings, and also fired live rounds in the air using automatic weapons. This fear mongering took place across the entire Sesheke, including in rural wards. This sent innocent citizens into panic and they had to scamper from their houses into the bush.
3. It is further our understanding that once these Sesheke residents had run into the bush after the police crackdown on them, they were subsequently followed by Patriotic Front cadres who were armed with all sorts of weapons including hand guns, pangas, knives and stones. These PF cadres proceeded to assault any person they found in the bush wearing Opposition regalia. As we speak right now, several injured citizens with stab wounds are admitted to various clinics and hospitals in Sesheke District. It is worth noting that the PF assault on these innocent residents of Sesheke was taking place in full view of the Zambia Police Service Officers, and no PF cadre was arrested for either carrying dangerous weapons or for assault.
4. As Opposition Alliance, we wish to state that the rule which bans opposition political activities in a given District if the Republican President is visiting that District, is archaic, unreasonable, arbitrary and in total conflict with a multiparty system such as ours. The Sesheke by-election is taking place on 12th February 2019, which is 2 days from today. Does it mean that if President Lungu remains campaigning in Sesheke for the next two days, then the opposition must not hold any campaign activities? Does such a scenario present a level playing field for all political parties taking part in the by-election, or it favors the ruling Patriotic Front Party?
5. Based on evidence on the ground, it appears that the Zambia Police Service is now working in concert with the PF cadres whereby the Police teargas innocent Sesheke citizens from their homes and also scare them by firing automatic assault weapons in the air, and as soon as the citizens isolate themselves and scamper into the bush, they are then followed by PF cadres armed with all sorts of weapons. To us, this appears to be a systematic and coordinated operation between the Police and PF cadres, designed to brutalize innocent citizens into submission so that on Election Day, they should vote for the ruling PF out of fear of further brutalization, should they vote otherwise.
6. We further wish to put it on record that this formula by the PF, of dealing with the Sesheke by-election, is not new but was also used in the Chilanga and Mangango Parliamentary By-elections. However, we wish to put it on record that the coordinated use of violence by the PF party and State institutions such as the Zambia Police Service, to achieve political goals, actually constitutes genocide. To this effect, the Opposition Alliance will be considering the next steps to take, which may include reporting these matters to international bodies such as the United Nations and the International Criminal Court, so that an independent international prosecutor may be appointed to come and investigate these crimes.
7. As Opposition Alliance, we now understand why the Patriotic Front is reluctant and has been going out of its way to undermine the on-going national dialogue and reconciliation process that is being led by the three Church Mother Bodies. The PF motive is clear for all to see; they want to ensure that they retain their current formula of using a combination of PF cadres and the Zambia Police Service to perpetuate election violence on the citizenry. However, we wish to take this opportunity to warn the PF and its Government that the people are sovereign and they will not tolerate the current brutalization much longer.
PeP PRESIDENT AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE MEDIA & FINANCE SUB-COMMITTEES