Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano says the Chilubi parliamentary by-election will proceed, unless the court serves the commission with an injunction.
And Nshindano says ECZ was about to announce that it had banned both PF and UPND from participating in the Kaoma by-election due to violence but the commission discovered that it did not have powers to do so unless there was a conviction.
Speaking on Hot FM’s Red Hot breakfast show, Wednesday, Nshindano said he had made some interesting discoveries in Chilubi which he could not disclose in view of the court process.
“As a commission, we do receive a lot of reports and even in our statement, we did indicate that we received reports from all the political parties participating in the elections with the exception of People’s Alliance for Change (PAC) basically accusing each other of different malpractices and electoral violence. But of course, as the referee, we need to be able to establish our own truth despite the reports that were coming from the district conflict resolution committee. We saw it fit to be able to come down and be able to establish…and there are some interesting findings. Unfortunately, at this point in time I would love to share with you but because of this pending court issue, I might be undermining that process,” Nshindano said.
“But in terms of preparations, we are on course as you know with regards to campaign, they are supposed to end on 12th at 18:00 hours so that continues. Political parties have been campaigning and it will continue up to that end until we are served by the court, this process will continue and the by-election will proceed as scheduled for 13th. Of course, Chilubi is a nightmare when it comes to logistics we are working with the Zambia Air Force in terms of logistics, deployment, airlifting and so on. The processes are still underway and we hope to conclude with that today as we speak.”
And Nshindano explain why ECZ had not disqualified UPND and PF from participating in Kaoma.
He was responding to a question on why the commission did not stop the Kaoma by-election despite a. UPND member dying during the campaign period.
“I think it is not a correct position that the commission sits on the wall fence watching. Like the instance in Kaoma, when you trace back the action, the commission did proceed to start taking action to be able to ban both the UPND and PF then and what happened is that; at the point of doing that, when we were about to announce as the commission, we were made aware that we cannot be able to do that. Like I said, the same law that gives us the power to be able to sanction, takes them away through the enforcement regulations,” Nshindano said.
“There are certain steps that need to be followed and those steps are extremely protracted and this is why after that incident, the commission did call the two political parties UPND and PF to announce to them all the measures we have put in place in terms of reviewing the enforcement and these are now under the Attorney General and I can assure you that in a few weeks time, I am hoping that we should be able to come through and you will be able to see more swift action on the part of the commission.”
Nshindano said some of the actions which people expected the commission to take actually fell under some law enforcement agencies.
“We are not sitting idle as the commission, we are very proactive. The fact that we are not speaking on these elements does not mean that the commission is not doing anything. There is quite a lot that is being done at this point. Administratively, both in terms of legal reforms but also in terms of steps that we are going to take because we cannot continue on this path where we see electoral violence being perpetuated by political parties and a lot of other aspects that I said based on our findings on the ground,” Nshindano said.
“Our people need to understand that there are certain functions that may appear to be the electoral commissions’ but they are not. When you look at the conflict resolutions even in the Act, it talks about the commission in terms of minor conflict resolutions. There are certain elements that amount to criminal which the police should be able to take up, there are certain aspects that amount to corruption which the Anti-Corruption Commission need to take up and even other aspects that resort to disaggregation in the electoral process through ethnic groups which can be interpreted as tribal talk. When you look at the act, it will make sure that it can only be done upon conviction, until conviction. So there are certain offences that are outside the realm of the commission.”
Nshindano insisted that the commission’s powers were limited.
“But not to relegate that fact we are also alive with the mandate that we are the ones that manage elections, and of course in the past, we were being stifled by legal provisos …the same law that gives us the power to sanction, including suspending political parties, on the other hand, when it comes to enforcement regulation, it takes them away by putting a protracted process to it. And if there is one institution that is prone to legal processes it is the ECZ. So we need to ensure that whatever we do, we follow the law as it stipulates but in following that law, what you find us being toothless by the time the process is concluded…the level of intolerance in this country among our political parties is unacceptable!”