Electoral violence inquiry report implicates Mumbi Phiri, Frank Bwalya, Mwata Kazembe

PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri with party deputy spokesperson Frank Bwalya during a press briefing at the party Secretariat in Lusaka-picture by Tenson Mkhala

The Commission of Inquiry into voting patterns and electoral violence has revealed that PF deputy secretary general Mumbi Phiri, among other political players, influenced voting patterns by campaigning, adopting candidates and organising party structures on tribal and regional lines prior to the 2016 general election.

And the Report revealed that the use of government vehicles and public resources by Cabinet ministers and ruling party officials influenced the voting patterns in 2016, which resources were not available to the opposition political parties.

In it’s report submitted to President Edgar Lungu in January, this year, but only circulated last Friday, the Commission revealed that the regional voting patterns and violence that characterised the 2016 presidential and general election was necessitated by a number of factors, including influence of traditional leadership and the use of hate speech perpetrated by Phiri and then-PF deputy spokesperson, Fr Frank Bwalya, who is now Zambia’s High Commissioner to Australia.

The report named senior chief Mwata Kazembe of the Lunda-speaking people of Luapula Province and chief Shimukunami of Lufwanyama District on the Copperbelt Province as having been campaigning against the ruling party in 2016 and threatening subjects who were supporting PF with punitive sanctions.

The Commission noticed a trend of political parties organising their structures on ethnic lines perpetuated ethnic voting and magnifying the belief that certain political parties belonged to particular tribes and it was only members of those tribes that could vote for them.

“In Mwansabombwe District, a petitioner submitted that the PF campaign team campaigned on tribal grounds as they were openly urging the electorate not to vote for UPND presidential candidate because he was Tonga. The petitioner told the Commission that the PF members in their campaigns were saying that Tonga-speaking people were selfish people who should not be entrusted with leadership. The petitioner further submitted that PF propagated that people should vote for President Edgar Lungu because he was their tribal cousin. In Chinsali District, a petitioner submitted that when the-then PF deputy spokesperson Fr. Frank Bwalya and PF deputy secretary general, Mrs Mumbi Phiri, visited the district on their campaign trail, they were only talking about tribe. The petitioner said that all what the two were talking about was that people should not vote for a Tonga because if they do, he will demarcate the country and bring cows in town,” the Report disclosed.

“In Sinda District of Eastern Province, a petitioner submitted that in 2016, he voted for a Presidential candidate originating from Eastern Province because there was a consistent campaign message in the area, which was aimed at persuading the electorate to vote for the ‘son of the soil.’ According to the petitioner, the campaign slogan dubbed: ‘Wako ni Wako’ expressly discouraged people from voting for political parties whose presidential candidates belonged to other tribes or regions. The petitioner submitted that he personally changed his mind to vote for the party he voted for because of the tribal campaign message. In Luanshya District, a petitioner submitted that during the 2016 election campaign, he heard UPND supporters telling people not to vote for Bemba-speaking people because they were thieves who cannot take the country forward.”

The Report also recorded influence of traditional leadership in named provinces in the 2016 presidential and general election.

“The Commission received submissions that some traditional leaders influenced the voting pattern by instructing their subjects to campaign and vote for identified political parties. Petitioners also submitted that some traditional leaders even threatened to apply sanctions against their subjects who campaigned for or against particular political parties. In Lufwanyama District, a petitioner submitted that chief Shimukunami was campaigning for the UPND and that the said chief received a vehicle from the party. The Commission heard from four more petitioners that the said chief threatened to banish people from the chiefdom if they voted for the PF. In the same district, another petitioner submitted that chief Fungulwe lobbied the other chiefs in the constituency to support his son who was the UPND parliamentary candidate because his chiefdom had not produced an MP since 1997. It was on this basis that the son to the chief was adopted to stand as an MP and won the election in 2016,” the report revealed.

“In Mwansabombwe District, petitioners submitted that there was interference from His Royal Highness Senior Chief Mwata Kazembe during the 2016 general election. Several petitioners submitted that the chief was de-campaigning the PF parliamentary candidate for Mwansabombwe. The petitioners submitted that the chief did not want the PF to campaign freely in the villages in his chiefdom. Another petitioner submitted that both the Mwansabombwe District Commissioner and senior chief Mwata Kazembe were supporting the MMD parliamentary candidate. Another petitioner, however, submitted that the interference by the chief did not affect the election results in Mwansabombwe constituency as all PF candidates at different levels still won the elections. In Zambezi District, petitioners submitted that senior chief Ndungu was supporting the ruling PF. A petitioner submitted that the said chief’s house was even used to host a meeting at which the PF wanted to force the UPND to withdraw from the race of Council Chairperson in order to give an opportunity to PF to win the position.”

And the report further disclosed that Headman Mwenda of Chipili District in Luapula Province submitted to the Commission that it was the role of traditional leaders to campaign for the ruling party and that he personally campaigned for PF in 2016.

Meanwhile, the Report revealed that the use of government vehicles and public resources by the ruling party influenced the voting patterns through the use of government resources for campaigns, which resources were not available to the opposition political parties.

“The Commission observes that the use of government resources has remained a contentious issue among political contenders and the electorate. Separation of party and government functions is blurred during election campaigns, thereby, causing conflicts over public officials using government infrastructure, vehicles, time and other materials. Furthermore, use of resources by Cabinet Ministers, particularly during by-election campaigns, is a reality that needs to be addressed. The effect of using government resources is that it creates an uneven electoral playing field. The Commission observes that the ECZ has a duty, where reasonable and practicable to do so, to ensure that political parties do not use State resources to campaign for the benefit of any political party or candidate. This is an express provision in Regulation 3 of the Code of Conduct,” the report read.

The Commission also found that the violent conduct of political party cadres, both from the ruling and opposition parties, influenced the voting patterns ahead of election day in August, 2016.

“Some petitioners submitted that voters in certain parts of the country may have stayed away from voting for fear of violence. Various other petitioners submitted that political parties engaged in violent disruption of campaign activities of competing political players. The Commission received numerous submissions of how campaign activities were being disrupted by rival political parties. The Commission also received submissions that political parties violently interfered with the processing of election results. Petitioners submitted that voters in certain parts of the country may have voted for dominant political parties in those regions out of fear of post-election victimisation. Other petitioners submitted that because of fear of attack by party campaigners, they did not attend rallies and other political meetings to access information about rival parties and candidates. Petitioners submitted that the disruption of campaign activities took the form of violence against supporters of rival parties who in some instances were physically attacked and severely injured merely on account of wearing party regalia. A petitioner in Mpika District gave evidence of how the UPND held a meeting in the bush at someone’s private farm because the police and PF cadres would not allow them to meet at a public place,” disclosed the Report.




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