The Chilanga parliamentary by-election is a test for the Electoral Commission of Zambia to prove to Zambians that it is credible of conducting elections, says Transparency International Zambia executive director Wesley Chibamba.
And Chibamba says his organization will soon engage government to discuss the drafting of cyber laws, which he says were not subjected to a consultative process to ensure transparency.
In an interview with News Diggers! in Lusaka, Chibamba said the ECZ is so far a very weak body that does not punish electoral process offenders and fails to enforce the Electoral Process Act.
“That’s why I was speaking about the issue of enforcing the Electoral Process Act. For instance, the perpetrators of that violence are known. We understand there were police officers there, law enforcement officers there. There are people that are known. If there is a political party that instigated that violence, they should be disqualified from the election because that is what the Electoral Process Act provides for. So, this is where we are coming from with the issue of enforcement. ECZ has been very weak in terms of enforcing the Electoral Process Act. And this is not the first time that they have shown us how weak they are. Over the past three presidential elections, their credibility has been questionable. They don’t seem to be credible enough because they can’t just enforce certain laws, which require them to ban some political parties,” Chibamba observed.
“This Chilanga by-election should have been an opportunity to show Zambians what they do and what they are capable of. But even here, they are unable to instill confidence in the members of the public. It’s a sad situation, very sad development. They have been very weak in terms of enforcing the Electoral Process Act. We have not seen any political party disqualified on the basis of them abrogation the Electoral Process Act. We have never seen that done. So, when they begin to do that, then they begin to send a message, a correct message to the people.”
He added that the ECZ should enforce the applicable electoral laws on political parties that abrogate its provisions.
“As Transparency International Zambia, obviously, we would like to see a free, fair and credible by-election. We expect the Electoral Commission of Zambia to conduct themselves, and to conduct the election, in a manner that inspires confidence among the public. I think the issues are known, the weakness are known and what peoples’ concerns are, are known. So, what we want to see is an electoral management body that takes care of all these concerns that have been raised by the general public. But then, we also want to see the Electoral Process Act number 35 of 2016 being enforced because a lot of political parties have actually abrogated the provisions of the Act during the 2016 general elections. But nothing happened to them,” Chibamba lamented.
“And this applied to both the ruling party and the opposition political parties. So, we want to see an electoral management body that can manage to enforce the Act on which it superintends, on which it presides. So, that is what we would like to see but over and above, we want them to speak to the public. Let them tell us; what are you planning, what are you doing? Because the silence does not help, and it leads to speculation and there is no harm in them reaching out to other partners if they need help in terms of monitoring. I think there are organizations that are willing to partner with them, including ourselves as Transparency International Zambia. We are aware of the violence for example that took place in Chilanga where there was a rally being hosted by an opposition party ahead of the by-election.”
And Chibamba disclosed that TIZ intends to engage government to discuss the drafting of cyber laws, which he says were not subjected to a consultative process to ensure transparency.
“And we want to talk to the government about these cyber laws that they want to enact, which are meant to stifle media freedom. You know, they have been drafting these laws in secrecy. A law is supposed to go through a consultative process, these were supposed to be consulted because these laws were meant for the people. You don’t craft a law from a bedroom and then you want to apply it. They have been very secretive about the cyber laws that they want to enact. But then we are aware that these Bills have actually been drafted and they plan on taking them before Parliament in June. That’s unacceptable,” said Chibamba.