On Friday, town centre of Lusaka City was a no-go area. Businesses closed, people were scampering in all directions, tear gas canisters and gunshots were fired to disperse unruly cadres as police tried to take control of the situation in an effort to return the area to normalcy. Several of the people that do small businesses in town to make ends meet had their activities disrupted – meaning they went back home empty handed with nothing to feed their families on.
Why was this so? Because the United Party for National Development (UPND) youths disregarded advice of the Zambia Police Service not to conduct a funeral procession in town for their departed member, Lawrence Banda, who was shot dead in Kaoma last week. We understand the anger, frustration and deep sense of sorrow the opposition party was feeling at the time following the death of their colleague. But that was obviously no reason for them to go against advice of the law enforcement agencies when they were told not to go to town for a funeral procession but restrict it to the Cathedral of the Holy Cross where requiem mass was being held for the departed. The display of the coffin where Banda lay, running with it like there was no person in it, causing traffic jam and provoking others in the process was an uncalled for act that deserves serious condemnation.
Many Zambians have seen this action as quite odd and distasteful – something that should never ever be encouraged in our culture. There is room to mourn our colleagues in a dignified manner even when their death was not pleasing to us, but to go to extremes like what happened on Friday can only be described in one word – despicable!
The opposition UPND cadres knew that by them going into town to conduct a funeral process for Banda, that would without doubt trigger a reaction from the ruling party cadres, and that is exactly what the Police tried to avoid by advising them against proceeding with their plan. What does a political party lose by adhering to police advice for once? Nothing! What actually happens when advice is taken is that this particular party gains respect and adoration among the people that may probably be not interested in its activities. However, for the UPND, this was a chance for them to cause confusion for the entire city and disturb the normal flow of business as much as possible just to gain political mileage.
Do they have the slightest idea how many people lost businesses that particular day? Do they care at all that some entrepreneurs that survive on hand to mouth businesses lost out on what to feed their families on that day and the next? These are issues that leaders of these political parties and their followers must begin to think about before taking certain actions that put the entire country into a risk of total degeneration. Respect for the law is paramount in this political business. If you cannot follow the law now while in opposition and display the savagery and lack of respect for the dead and other citizens in the manner we saw last Friday, how about when they take over power?
One simple rule is that political parties must refrain from provoking situations that end up ugly. There is no need for that and there was no need for the UPND cadres to do what they did on Friday. Equally, we expect the ruling party cadres to heed President Edgar Lungu’s continuous pleas that they stay away from violence even when provoked. By doing that, they will be according the President and the Presidency the highest respect they deserve.