Lungu extends mandate for violence Commission of Inquiry despite austerity measures

Police officer teargas a UPND cadre in Lusaka

President Edgar Lungu has once again extended the Commission of Inquiry into Political Violence and Voting Patterns’ mandate from June 30 to December 31, 2018.

But sources at the Ministry of Justice say it would make more sense for government to disband the commission in light of austerity measures since their resolutions are not likely to have an impact on the 2021 elections.

Recently, President Lungu signed Statutory Instrument No. 60 of 2018, allowing the Commission of Inquiry into Political Violence and Voting Patterns to continue operating until December 31.

Initially, the commission was tasked to finish it’s work within 120 days of being appointed but this has been stretched on three occasions.

When asked to clarify what they commission had taken so long to finalise its report, commission secretary Nzovwa Chomba declined to give an interview, but promised that commission chairperson justice Munalula Lisimba would soon hold a press conference.

But sources at the Ministry of Justice disclosed that government had no resources to pump into the commission and it would therefore make sense to disband it.

“This Commission has been to nearly all provinces except Central and Lusaka provinces and as you know, it’s work should have lasted three months but it has dragged on for a couple of reasons, the biggest being that there is no money for the work of the Commission and also, there seems to be a lack of planning from the team leadership. And now that government is rolling out these austerity measures, it is better to disband such commissions because at the end of the day, whatever results and recommendations they come up with will be academic, they are highly unlikely to have an impact on the 2021 elections,” the source said.

“Right now as we speak, we have had several by-elections and we have seen that violence remains a problem. We saw people being maimed in Chilanga, there are reports of violence in Kasanengwa, and all this goes to show that this commission of inquiry is not the solution. I doubt that they will finalise the report by December and when they eventually do, there won’t be any time left before 2021 to make any real changes at political party and government level which could bring about any change. As it is, this exercise is not making sense.”

The source wondered whether any recommendations to amend constitutional provisions from the commission would be taken into consideration.

“The minister (Justice Minister Given Lubinda) is already saying he will go ahead to publish the Constitutional Amendment Bill if the dialogue process keeps on dragging. So if he does publish, will the recommendations from the inquiry be taken into consideration since they will only finish later than December?” asked the source.

The source also disclosed that the commission had only focused on holding public meetings without complementing it with detailed research.

“Something else which is problematic is the approach taken by the Commission of having numerous public hearings without complementing this with detailed research and unfortunately the end product may not be credible at all. I am also worried that PF has not bothered at a high level to submit to the Commission, as far as I know, was a low level official, Mr John Phiri, who failed to justify why he was representing the party. And the Zambia Police has not bothered to make an appearance and yet there are many accusations of violence perpetrated by the Police. The seriousness of major stakeholders like PF, Zambia Police and ECZ is worrisome,” said the source.

“It seems the Commission was just a public relations stance to demonstrate that Government was doing something about violence and the regional voting patterns. But as matters stand, this Commission will not come up with any meaningful solutions to the problems at hand and come 2021, the same violence and voting patterns will be prevalent.”

The source observed that most commissions appointed under the PF government never concluded their work.

“Besides this Commission, there is equally the Legal and Justice Reforms Commission which was mooted when Wynter Kabimba was in office and chaired by retired Judge Frederick Chomba. This Commission which started earlier than the one on political violence, has not completed its work as yet and of course they also cite lack of funding from government. It would seem none of the Commission of Inquiries set up by PF during Sata’s time has successfully concluded their work and reports publicly made available,” said the source.

         

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