Voice of America (Washington, DC)

15 April 2014

Zambia Won't Condone Political Violence, Says Official

Zambia's information minister says President Michael Sata's administration will not tolerate acts of violence perpetrated by political groups aimed to create chaos and destabilize the country.

Joseph Katema also denied opposition accusations that the administration has narrowed the political space preventing them from effectively playing their role as checks on the government. He says the state's broadcasting companies give equal access to all political parties.

"The opposition political parties are enjoying very conducive environment," said Katema. "Little did we hear of an opposition political party on a national television broadcaster, national print media, which are solely owned by the government. They can participate and [are] given equal platform, which had never happened in the history of this country," he said.

His comments came after Hakainde Hichilema, leader of the opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) was attacked while participating in a program on a private local radio station in Ndola, in the country's northern Copperbelt region. UPND supporters accused members of the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party for the attack.

The country's Human Rights Commission and Wynter Kabimba, the justice minister and general secretary of the PF condemned the attack. Katema also decried the violence.

"The Patriotic Front government believes in the rule of law and at no time is it going to tolerate any acts of violence against any of its citizens. And it doesn't matter from which political party the perpetrators are coming from, the government does not condone [it]," said Katema.

"The spokesperson of the Patriotic Front says that anybody found in perpetrating any acts of violence would be disowned when the law starts to take its course," he said.

But opposition groups say the government is to blame for the violence against opponents of the administration, since attacks on opposition leaders are often carried out by partisans of the ruling PF who, they contend, remain unpunished for their acts of violence.

Katema disagreed, and called on supporters of political parties to be tolerant of their opponents.

"Both the ruling party and the opposition parties [should] call for level headedness when we are handling matters of importance to this nation, that we should moderate our tone," said Katema.

"Provocation as well should not be tolerated, it being from the ruling party or from the opposition parties. So I am appealing to both parties to moderate in the way that they are conducting partisan business," he said.

Katema says the government has implemented measures to ensure an equal playing field for opposition groups to freely carry out their activities devoid of violence. He however says the government will not condone pronouncements that incite violence and chaos.

"The government has always appealed to the opposition parties that any political player that in as much as freedom is given, it should go hand-in-hand with responsibility. Going to the media to go and propagate violence is not acceptable," said Katema.

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