Hidden UNDP report says ECZ was vulnerable to external influence

Police officer teargas a UPND cadre in Lusaka

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) survey on Conflict Structural Vulnerability, which the UN country office in Zambia has kept under wraps, reports that institutions like the Electoral Commission of Zambia is vulnerable to external influence.

And the report which was concluded in November 2017, but never released to the public, also shows that the State police, could not arrest Patriotic Front cadres who engaged in violent activities while the public media favoured the governing party in its coverage of election campaigns.

“Data gathered from key informant’s interviews and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) suggest that weak institutions have contributed to conflict in Zambia. 78 per cent of the respondents reported that weak institutions contribute to conflict. Some of the weak institutions identified include: political parties, the judiciary, the police and ECZ which is susceptible to external influence, which undermines its autonomy,” read the report in part.

“Police were accused of abetting impunity perpetuated by party cadres. Respondents reported that in most cases police do not arrest some party cadres who engage in violent activities, especially those from the ruling party. The laxity on the part of the police has contributed to the culture of impunity among party cadres and gross violations of people’s rights. Secondly, police were accused of highhandedness especially when dealing with local communities, specially the opposition members. This has often resulted in violent confrontation between the police and local communities especially the UPND.”

The report which can be downloaded on the News Diggers! website further reveals that during election campaigns in 2016, the police selectively applied the Public Order Act to the disadvantage of opposition political parties.

“Thirdly, data gathered through FDGs indicated that police were selectively applying the Public Order Act (PoA). Respondents observed that police, in many occasions, favour the ruling party when it comes to application of the POA. The skewed application of the Act has always resulted in violent confrontation between the police and opposition parties especially UPND. The police were selectively applying the provisions of the Public Order Act that deals with political gatherings. In most cases, the police unilaterally cancelled opposition scheduled political rallies, and this triggered violent confrontation between opposition party cadres and the police,” it read.

“A good example is the case in Lusaka on 8th, July, 2016 where the cancellation of a UPND political campaign rally by the police led to violent conflict leading to the death of one young woman. This underscores the fact that most women and young people are the victims of violent conflict as they are most vulnerable. Respondents perceive the police as being corrupt and easily manipulated by party cadres. It was also generally concluded that the police are increasingly using poor methods of policing elections which contribute to escalation of conflicts.”

The report cited the police force as one of the triggers of election conflict.

“As the custodians of law and order, the police play a fundamental role in conflict prevention and management especially during election period. However as earlier alluded to, findings indicate that the police are increasingly deploying policing tactics which contribute to an escalation of conflict. Findings indicate that most police officers generally lack soft-power conflict management skills, and are excessive in the use of hard-power tactics which do not conform to modern techniques of electoral policing and crowd control including the selective application of the Public Order Act.”

It also reported that the Anti Corruption Commission did not collaborate with the police and the judiciary to curb electoral malpractices.

“While the role of Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) is critical in the management of electoral related corruption, findings indicate that the role of the ACC during elections is very passive. Respondents also show little knowledge of any collaboration between the ACC and other formal dispute resolution mechanisms such as the Police, and the judiciary,” the report revealed.

The report also indicated that public media houses favoured the ruling party while political leaders in general promoted hate speech.

“Hate speech remarks bordering on ethnicity and other falsehoods were mostly prevalent during the election period and mostly targeting one ethic group against another; or one individual against another for political mileage. The magnitude of hate speech during political rallies and on social media platforms is worryingly on the rise. Musicians have also been singled out of using derogatory language in their music that can easily trigger violence,” the report read in part.

“Media houses were highlighted as spreading hate speech that trigger conflict especially during elections. The media, especially public media doesn’t give fair coverage and equal access to all political key stakeholders. The public media was especially singled out and perceived to be overly supporting the ruling party and this does not give an enabling environment for peaceful and credible elections.”

Meanwhile, the report stated that political cadres in Zambia are highly militarised, and that the notoriety of party cadres was more prevalent in the ruling party and the opposition UPND.

“Party cadres have been in the forefront in fomenting electoral conflicts in Zambia. On 7th September, 2017 for example, PF and UPND cadres engaged in violent conflict in a ward by-election in Chilanga. About 90 per cent of respondents noted that the notoriety of party cadres is more prevalent in the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND). The violent conflicts orchestrated by the cadres in most cases take the form of assaults, disruption of meetings and armed attacks on perceived opponents,” read the report in part.

“Cadres are known to carry crude weapons such as machetes and pangas. Some even carry guns publicly. It was evident from the study that politicians have always recruited and financed party cadre activities. The ability to make easy money from politicians makes ‘cadre-ism’ attractive. The study noted that cadres have been used to invade private land leading to violent confrontation. Interestingly, some party cadres operate like security agents, they move around clad in military regalia and provide security to politicians. This has made them ruthless in their actions especially when dealing with perceived opponents. It was reported that some gangs of party cadres, especially from the ruling party are feared by the police. What this implies is that the police cannot take legal actions on party cadres engaged in activities contrary to the law.”

Below is the full report:

Report on SVA - Zambia - Final Final

         

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