AN assistant presiding officer has told the Local Government Elections Tribunal that he was given 3,000 pre-marked ballot papers by Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba, commonly known as GBM, to stuff into ballot boxes for the mayoral elections at Lusaka’s Matero Community hall.
He also told the tribunal that he, together with the senior presiding officer, did temper with the results after it was discovered that the results were not tallying.
This is a matter in which losing UPND Lusaka mayoral aspirant Victor Nyasulu petitioned his loss on allegations that the Lusaka mayoral votes were tampered with in the just ended election.
Nyasulu has cited elected mayor, Chilando Chitangala, and the Electoral Commission of Zambia as first and second respondents respectively.
He further alleged that various incidences such as violence against his supporters, abductions and damage to property negatively affected his campaigns.
And when the matter came up for hearing before the tribunal being chaired by chief resident magistrate Dominic Makaliche at the Lusaka Magistrates’ Court, Friday and Saturday, Phineas Kazongo, 36, a teacher by profession, told the tribunal that he was employed by the Electoral Commission of Zambia as a presiding officer but worked as assistant during and after the August 12 mayoral elections and was stationed at Matero Community Hall.
He told the tribunal that the night before voting day around 22:00 to 23:00 hours, he was summoned by a named Mukupa who told him that there were people who wanted to see him in a black range rover motor vehicle outside the said hall.
“What I observed, it was the night before voting. I am not too sure about the time but it was between 22:00 and 23:00 hours. Mr Mukupa, came or approached me and then told me that there are people who wanted to see me and then I went to them they were actually in a black range rover. Then I was told to enter, when I entered, there were three people plus Mukupa who was standing outside. I identified one and I greeted him by his name and that person was GBM,” he said.
He further said that he was given a package which contained 8,000 ballot papers which after checking, noticed that they were pre-marked in favour of the PF mayoral candidate.
“So when I entered, he told me to say I have a package for you, he gave me a box here there was pre-marked ballot papers for mayoral. When I opened the same box, I compared what I received from the returning officer and also the same ballot papers that he presented me for mayoral. They were the same. When I flipped, I discovered that the ballot papers were marked for one candidate. I asked him the total number of ballot papers that were counted, he said they were 8000,” said Kazongo.
Kazongo revealed that he was told that the said ballots were for Matero constituency and he was to fuse them into ballot boxes at Matero Community hall.
Defence counsel Makebi Zulu then made an objection, asking the tribunal to strike out the testimony of the witness on grounds that his testimony was not part of the affidavit that was being relied upon by the petition and also that the witness made criminal allegations which could only be determined by a competent court and not the tribunal.
After a short recess, magistrate Makaliche delivered a ruling saying that the witness would proceed with his testimony as the petition talked about electoral irregularities in the wards and constituencies and noted that despite being general, the tribunal had considered that the issue of pre-marked ballot papers was an electoral irregularity.
“This tribunal cannot be faulted to receive that information from evidence by the witness,” said Magistrate Makaliche.
He further said that the defence objection was overruled.
And before the witness could resume testifying, counsel for the Electoral Commission of Zambia made an application on grounds that Kazongo did not get clearance from the commission to testify as a witness in the matter.
“Section 42(4) of the electoral process act puts an obligation on the presiding officer to not divulge any information obtained during the course of his duties and obligations during the electoral process. To that effect, the presiding officer undertakes an oath declaring the secrecy of the same information obtained to not be divulged. The circumstances under which that obligation can be waived is equally provided for under the said section. The second respondent has not given clearance to the witness nor has he shown any court order to be seen in the matter he intends to be seen. Devoid of the said authorisation honourable chair, it is our prayer that the said witness be curtailed from proceedings to give evidence,” said counsel.
The matter was then stood down.
On Saturday, after obtaining clearance from the ECZ, Kazongo continued his testimony saying that after finding out that the ballots were matching the mayoral ballots, he went back to the car where he was given a brown envelope with a lot money in K100 notes.
He alleged that after being asked what profession he belonged to, he was promised a job abroad but he refused saying integrity could not be bought.
After Kazongo’s refusal, it was alleged that GBM insulted him in bemba saying “iwe chikala” while the other unidentified individual in the vehicle removed a gun and threatened the witness that the matter should never be heard anywhere or else he would die.
“They told me that ‘chilekeni chi stupid chileya (let the fool go), if you tell anyone about this meeting, you will die’,” he said.
He however left the ballot papers and the money after refusing to be bribed.
He further told the tribunal that there was confusion as he was writing results in the board room when a group of PF cadres made him swap results after they showed that Nyasulu was leading and Chitangala was trailing.
Later, he said UPND observers challenged him but he referred the matter to the senior presiding officer.
A day after the elections, Kazongo said he was called by the presiding officer saying the numbers were not tallying but after he went to the polling station to see what was happening, he was made to fill in new GEN 20 forms with new figures and destroyed the old ones whose figures were not tallying.
He further told the tribunal that after being found changing the figures, he and the presiding officer were bundled and taken to Central Police station where they were released after giving statements.
During cross examination, Kazongo clarified that he recieved 8,000 ballots but only 3,000 were pre-marked.
And when asked whether he had evidence to back his claims, Kazongo said he had none but would rely on his testimony as it was the truth.
As of yesterday afternoon, other witnesses continued to testify in the matter which is expected to be concluded today.