UPND Lusaka mayoral candidate Kangwa Chileshe says it is possible for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to offer free, fair and peaceful elections if left to operate without political interference.

And Chileshe says because of lack of funding ECZ has failed to conduct a voter replacement exercise as well as voter sensitisation ahead of the by-elections.

He also told News Diggers in an interview that the signed for campaign resolutions at the ECZ stakeholders meeting last week has brought order in the ongoing campaigns.

“ECZ is fledge with political interference. ECZ can offer free, fair and peaceful elections, they can do that but they have a challenge in the sense that there is political interference. So what needs to happen is that the professionals at ECZ have to be above political interference. They have to realise that their careers and the welfare of Zambians is more important than what a politician desires especially a politician in a ruling party. So I will give you an example where they have not received funding for this particular election, which is very sad. You see this is a huge election, two million plus people in Lusaka. We were suppose to have registration of voters and replacement of voter’s cards. Replacing of voters’ cards should not be a privilege, it’s a democratic right. In order to have a free and fair election and in order for people to participate in choosing their leadership, they need a voter’s card. Just the same way if you lose your NRC, you can go by the boma there and get a police report and they give you a new NRC. Similarly you are supposed to get your voter’s card the same way,” Chileshe said.

Chileshe further charged that political interference had infiltrated the professionalism of ECZ staff where the welfare of people was no longer a priority.

“But the reason we could not replace voters’ cards is because the ECZ has no funding. That shows you that we don’t prioritise democracy, we don’t prioritise constitutionalism in our country because that is a right. Can you imagine how many people are not going to vote because they lost their voters’ cards or their voters’ cards were stolen from them and they are not going to vote because you have a government that prioritise leadership and therefore they won’t replace them. So those are the things that ECZ should be fighting for,” he said.

“Secondly, there is this violence that has been going on. Now ECZ doesn’t even have adverts on TV or on radio where they can sensitize the public about the dangers of violence, the dangers of electoral malpractices and all that. They can’t do those things because they don’t have the money for those things. So it becomes a serious challenge for them. So they need funding in order for them to be proactive because instead of waiting for violence to happen, they can actually sensitize the public on the dangers of violence.”

Meanwhile, Chileshe said the agreed upon campaign schedule for all political parties had brought order.

“I think it is very helpful. It is just a guide and it doesn’t mean that we can’t campaign, it only means that if others are doing a road show in a particular area, you can also have people on the ground doing whatever they have to do and it doesn’t mean that when one is having a rally in a particular area, another party can’t have another rally in that area. I think there is now order,” said Chileshe.