It’s unbelievable that Patriotic Front cadres could storm studios of radio stations in broad daylight to stop them from broadcasting live phone programmes.

Patriotic Front cadres are increasingly forcing their way into studios of radio stations by breaking doors, demanding that broadcasts be stopped immediately.

And police are scared to arrest the Patriotic Front cadres involved.

Police are afraid to act on Patriotic Front cadres.

This behaviour is possible because Edgar Lungu and his minions tolerate it, encourage it and reward it.

Patriotic Front cadres have become a law unto themselves. But where is this impunity coming from and where will it end?

When someone acts with impunity, it means that their actions have no consequences. Threats, attacks and all sorts of crimes go unpunished.

When it comes to crimes against freedom of expression in this country, the problem of impunity is pervasive. In the past few years of Edgar’s rule, Patriotic Front cadres have found it easy to storm radio or television stations and stop live programmes featuring opposition politicians.

In all these attacks, no Patriotic Front cadre has been arrested, prosecuted, convicted and sent to prison.

These crimes remain uninvestigated and unpunished.

Countless other citizens – artists, bloggers, activists and journalists – have been harassed, threatened, intimidated or attacked for exercising their basic human right to express themselves, almost never with serious consequences for their perpetrators.

A culture of impunity is taking root. And what do we mean by “a culture of impunity”? A culture of impunity exists when those who deny others their right to freedom of expression can do so knowing it is unlikely they will be held accountable for their actions.

Within a culture of impunity, a chilling effect on the free flow of ideas and information takes hold. This culture strips people of their ability to fully participate in societal decision making; an essential element of a healthy democracy.

Furthermore, self-censorship becomes the norm and hard questions don’t get asked, leaving powerful social actors free to pursue selfish ends with little fear of exposure or criticism from society at large.

Yet no culture of impunity is invincible, no matter how entrenched.

Unless we administer it with consistency and optimal results, our criminal justice system will not be meaningful and functional. Given the vagaries incident to our multiparty politics and the sway of a culture of political expediency, more is needed to stop impunity in Zambia.

The sad attack on radio stations in Muchinga Province by Patriotic Front cadres and the tepid response of the police and those in power thus far highlights a growing trend toward increasingly brazen actions by ruling party cadres and leaders that are failing to trigger meaningful consequences that could lead to changes of political behaviour in this country.

The incidents in Muchinga followed closely on the heels of other Patriotic Front cadres’ actions that have been widely criticised for running counter to accepted political and legal norms. But we are not seeing any change in the attitude of the police and their political masters.

Imagine what would have happened if it was opposition cadres storming a radio station to stop any Patriotic Front leader from speaking!

But this has happened to opposition leaders several times with impunity under the leadership of Edgar.

Where is this criminal behaviour and the impunity that accompanies it going to take us as a nation? What type of society are we trying to build?


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