United Party for National Development deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka says his party performed poorly in the April 24 local government by-elections due to violence by PF cadres.

And Mucheleka has accused the ruling Patriotic Front of having bribed the electorate with money believed to be proceeds of corrupt activities.

Speaking to News Diggers! in an interview following the outcome of the local government by-elections held in 16 districts namely: Kalulushi; Mufulira; Nyimba; Sinda; Kawambwa; Mwense; Shibuyunji; Chinsali; Mafinga; Shiwang’andu; Kasempa; Mufumbwe; Mwinilunga; Mushindamo; Monze; and Mongu districts, Mucheleka, who was visibly disappointed with the performance of his party, accused PF national youth chairperson, Stephen Kampyongo, of having organised cadres to keep away UPND members from participating in the elections.

“What has happened is that there has been massive effort by PF, especially in the last three days before elections. They went in with all sorts of goods to literally go and bribe people. They were dishing out mealie-meal, cooking oil. Apart from their normal chitenge, they went further to dish out all sorts of essential commodities across the country. You may be aware that there wasn’t anywhere where PF held a successful campaign meeting, President Lungu went to the Copperbelt on the understanding that he was going to Kansuswa ward in Mufulira central and Luapula ward in Kalulushi, but he never went to any of these areas because he had already been informed that the situation on the ground was not good for PF. It was very clear that they were headed for serious loss,” Mucheleka complained.

“Then apart from buying people goodies and chitenge materials using the proceeds of corruption…because they are getting money to fund their political activities. Money from the roads, money from infrastructure projects and that is why they have been inflating all those projects in order for them to get kickbacks to be able to buy these things; to be literary taking advantage of the product that they have induced as PF.”

Mucheleka alleged that Kampyongo, who is also Minister of Home Affairs, used his position and invited PF cadres to take the monitoring of elections away from qualified Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) officials.

“On the election day itself, the thugs across the country took over polling stations. No monitor was allowed to monitor elections; they couldn’t allow voters to go and freely exercise their rights to vote except for known PF supporters or sympathisers. Anyone they were suspicious of wasn’t allowed to go in and cast their vote. I personally spoke to Chomba Chellah, the chief electoral officer; I gave him a call and explained what was going on. Then he said, ‘okay’ and he clearly pinpointed areas where it was very wrong. Of course, Shiwang’andu being one of them and also in Kuku ward in Chinsali Central. So Chellah, he told me that he was going to get back to me after some time because he wanted to consult with [Stephen] Kampyongo but I wondered why Kampyongo was controlling the situation for elections,” he explained.

“So, he indeed got back to me and said he had spoken to Kampyongo who had first been in denial, but later on admitted that indeed we had a genuine concern as UPND on how these cadres would be taken care of and that he was going to instruct thugs across the country to take care of the country but then later on he said he had instructed the acting Inspector General of Police, Malcolm Mulenga, who had instructed his officers in Muchinga [Province] to ensure that they go in the area to calm down the situation. But I said the situation won’t be calm because a mere presence of the police in Shiwang’andu for example…everyone knows that the police are under Kampyongo, and Kampyongo has been using the same police to brutalise our supporters across the country.”

Mucheleka insisted that cadres had taken over the counting of elections in all the districts except for Monze in Southern Province.

“So when the counting started yesterday (Tuesday), they just deployed thugs across the wards. The only place where they did not do that was in Monze because in Monze, UPND cannot be intimidated by PF. As for the rest of the wards, they just went and chased everyone who was outside and those who were inside also had to run away for their own safety and the cadres remained doing their own things. So that is where we are as a country,” Mucheleka complained.

Mucheleka, who disclosed that his party had written to ECZ requesting for the cancellation of the just-ended elections, said that there was need to reform the institution.

“Arising from what happened in Shiwang’andu, we wrote to ECZ asking them to cancel the elections because people had been prevented from going to vote. But ECZ refused to take any action whatsoever because it’s a captured institution. ECZ is an institution that has been operating as an extension of PF. The electoral process gives authority to ECZ to make decisions but it has been captured by PF. However, I sincerely sympathise with the officers at ECZ because some of them are good officers. We need to seriously reform ECZ; it’s a captured institution, and in its current form, it has no capacity to do anything,” observed Mucheleka.