The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has committed to write to both opposition UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema and President Edgar Lungu over the need to ensure that their supporters remain peaceful throughout the election process.
ECZ Public Relations Manager Margaret Chimanse told News Diggers in an interview that the commission wanted to ensure that Lusaka residents cast their votes in a peaceful environment, without intimidation.
“We engage stakeholder [and] sometimes we are working in the background. We talk to all these stakeholders and the political parties and on Thursday we had a meeting where all stakeholders were called, all the participating political parties, the church and other stakeholders signed a communiqué to ensure that peace is upheld in the current elections. So what happened is we reviewed what happened in the June 5 election and the 24th April election. And those concerns were tabled and having discussed extensively and deliberated, all the stakeholders agreed the resolution to improve the environment in relation to the mayoral by-election that will take place in Lusaka, Chilanga and other districts. We have six new districts, Eastern Province we have five and one in Luapula. Then we also have ward elections in various parts of the country,” Chimanse said.
“So we had all the stakeholders and 10 of them including the major political parties participated. And one of the issues that came up was that peace should be upheld to ensure that voters vote freely on 26th July 2018 without threats of violence or intimidation. So among other resolutions is that the commission will be writing to the president of UPND and [to the] Republican President or both parties UPND and PF to ensure that they commit to peace and encourage their supporters to remain peaceful. And also during their campaigns, there are election schedules are drawn up with the help of the police. So the commitment was that changes in the campaign schedules will be communicated in advance and agreed upon by all parties to ensure that there were no clashes.”
She said Commission also urged the church to openly name and shame political parties that did not meet the campaign expectations.
“So the commission also called upon UPND and PF campaign teams including youth leaders to a meeting regarding the issue of curbing violence. The police have also been urged to impound unregistered motor vehicles and other vehicles bearing fake number plates which are being used for the campaigns. One of the other issues also is that no one should carry weapons during the campaign period and that police should act to arrest cadres and political leaders who bear…during the campaign period and encourage civil and courteous language among political leaders and their supporters during the campaign period. Then also police reserves should not be involved in the election period to maintain law and order because that was seen as the source of abusing the process because they resolve to be so partial. The church was also urged to openly name and shame political parties that do not meet the expectations of the campaigns. The total number of people who appended their signatures was 21. And these engagements will continue with political parties,” Chimanse said.
“And you must realise that as a referee of the elections, as a commission, the onus is not just to bite for the sake of biting, you have to do investigations and also political parties are given a chance to reform. It is only where they abrogate and they really abrogate with impunity, that the commission will take action. But otherwise, there is so much that is going on. The police are involved, the church are involved and we are hopeful that all political parties will continue on a peaceful trajectory.”
Asked about what would be done to political parties that failed to uphold the code of conduct, Chimanse said the commission had powers to suspend erring parties.
“We can either suspend the candidate or the political party. That is one of the things that the commission can do, it has powers according to the law. They can be called and reprimanded. So those are the things. It’s a continuous dialogue. You will agree that if you just take out the candidate without investigating because there are allegations, it means that candidate will not stand and you will refranchise those who would want to vote for that political party,” said Chimanse.
And according to resolutions of the stakeholders meeting, political parties agreed to use civil language in their campaigns.
“Therefore, we the stakeholders present unanimously resolved the following; (i) that the commission should write to His Excellency President Edgar Chagwa Lungu and UPND president Mr Hakainde Hichilema indicating that the source of violence is perpetrated by members of the two parties (UPND and PF) and that it is incumbent on the two to help the commission to encourage their supporters to remain peaceful; (ii) that changes in the election campaign schedule should be communicated in advance and agreed upon among the parties involved so that the programme is harmonised and clashes avoided; (iii) that the commission calls upon leaders of UPND and PF campaign teams including youth and women group leaders to be called to the commission to discuss the curbing of political violence; (iv) that police should impound unregistered motor vehicles and vehicles bearing fake number plates which are used for campaign purposes; (v) that nobody should carry weapons during the campaign period. And police should act decisively to arrest cadres and political leaders who bear arms during the campaign; (vi) that the use of civil and courteous language should be encouraged during the campaign period; (vii) that police reserves should not be involved in the election period to maintain law and order; and (viii) that the church shall openly name and shame any political party that does not meet the expectations of conduct during campaigns and poll day,” read the communiqué of the resolutions.