The Report of the Commission of Inquiry into Voting Patterns and Electoral Violence says it received numerous submissions from stakeholders to the effect that the Zambia Police Service influenced the voting patterns through biased application of the Public Order Act (POA).
And the Commission noted with sadness how a 24-year-old woman of Kitwe District had her skull broken during electoral violence believed to have been perpetrated by PF cadres who raided the UPND Secretariat in Mindolo.
In its report submitted to President Edgar Lungu in January, this year, but only released last month, the Commission revealed that it received numerous submissions from stakeholders to the effect that the Zambia Police Service influenced the voting patterns through biased application of the POA ahead of the last general election.
The Commission added that it received other submissions that the PF members had the freedom to address rallies at will and without notifying the police, whereas the opposition parties were required to obtain permits from the police before holding any meetings.
“The Commission received numerous submissions that the Zambia Police Service influenced the voting patterns through the administration of the POA. Petitioners submitted that the Zambia Police Service constrained the campaign space for the opposition political parties through misapplication of the POA such that in some areas, the electorate was made to think that it was only one political party, the ruling PF, which was contesting the elections,” the Report revealed.
“Some petitioners submitted that police officers were very partisan and disadvantaged the opposition. The petitioners submitted that PF members had the freedom to address rallies at will and without notifying the police, whereas the opposition parties were required to obtain permits from the police before holding any meeting. The petitioners further submitted that the opposition had difficulties to obtain police permits and ended up abandoning their campaign programmes resulting in failure of the electorate being given a choice and, thereby, influencing voting patterns.”
It heard that police did not prevent violence during elections mainly due to inadequate capacity and taking directives from senior government officials as well as intimidation from political cadres.
The Commission stated that the failure by police to act professionally in preventing violence during elections had created loss of public confidence in the institution, which resulted in the escalation of violence.
Petitioners told the Commission that they had lost confidence in the police due to its bias in favour of the ruling party.
“The Commission received submissions that after the 2016 general election, people lost confidence in the Zambia Police Service. The majority of the petitioners countrywide submitted that the extreme bias in favour of the ruling party portrayed by the police demonstrated that the police could no longer be relied upon to protect people with opposition political affiliation. Similarly, some petitioners submitted that the police in opposition strongholds were biased towards the opposition parties. Petitioners also cited incidents where the police could not act to protect opposition political party sympathisers who were beaten or harassed in full view of the police. Petitioners submitted that the police used full force on opposition supporters, even where there was no justification for police intervention,” the Commission narrated.
“The Commission observes that the Zambia Police Service is prone to political interference during elections from both the ruling and opposition party cadres. This tends to compromise the professionalism of the Zambia Police Service and reduces its sense of appreciation by the public.”
And it also heard how a 24-year-old Kitwe woman had her skull broken by PF cadres who raided the UPND secretariat in Kitwe’s Mindolo Township.
“In Kitwe District, a 24-year-old woman, a supporter of the UPND, had her skull broken during electoral violence believed to have been perpetrated by PF cadres who raided the UPND secretariat in Mindolo. The petitioner submitted that she reported the assault to Mindolo Police Station, but the police officers did not show any interest in arresting the alleged perpetrators,” the report further stated.
It noted with concern that the Zambia Police Service did not respond to electoral violence impartially.
“The Commission notes that partial response to electoral violence escalates political conflicts because those who feel that they are not adequately protected by the Zambia Police Service, may employ unconventional means of protecting themselves. The Commission further observes that Section 123 of the EPA of 2016 expressly directs the Zambia Police Service to arrest any person who violates the Act,” it stated.
It also stated that the tendency by police to cancel permits for holding of political rallies at short notice caused frustration and anger among political parties.
“The Commission also observes that the tendency by the Zambia Police Service to cancel permits for holding of political rallies at short notice caused frustration and anger among political parties, which ignited electoral violence and fomented ill feelings against police officers. The Commission further observes that inappropriate crowd control mechanisms, such as indiscriminate use of tear gas to disperse rallies exacerbated political tension,” the Commission stated.
Additionally, the Commission suggested that police provincial commissioners should not be appointed by the President as it created supervisory challenges within the police command.
“The Commission observes that the appointment of provincial commissioners of police service directly by the Republican President has created supervisory challenges within the police command. This compromises the ability of Zambia Police Service to effectively address electoral violence, particularly instigated by the ruling party,” stated the Commission.
Meanwhile, in its recommendations, the Commission stated the urgent need to depoliticize the operations of the Zambia Police Service, including the appointment of the Inspector General of Police, his deputy as well as police commissioners.
It stated that commissioners of police should be appointed by Zambia Police Service Commission on recommendation by the Inspector General of Police.