The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has urged political parties to play fair in the Chilubi parliamentary by-election saying it won’t hesitate to invoke relevant laws to curb any misconduct.

And ECZ says it has engaged Zambia Postal Services (ZAMPOST) to ensure that it provides all stakeholders an equal opportunity to use the only ferry to the island, saying it is an act of abuse of office and electoral malpractice for government to book it for 20 days.

In an interview, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano asked all political parties to conduct themselves in a befitting manner.

“Firstly I think we’re glad to hear that all the political parties did file in their nominations successfully. But the onus again, like we have always emphasized is on the political parties to ensure that they play fair. If the environment is deemed that it was not a fair playing ground, and that we have a number of malpractices going on, obviously calls for the ECZ to enforce the law as it were and we can only urge the political parties to ensure that they conduct themselves in a manner that is befitting, that will allow for credible elections to be conducted,” said Nshindano.

And in response to a letter from NDC vice-president Josephs Akafumba, who lamented that government had booked the only ferry to the island for 20 days, ECZ acting chief electoral officer Royd Katongo stated that ZAMPOST had been asked to give everyone an equal opportunity to use the ferry.

Katongo stated that government’s decision to hire the ferry for 20 days was an act of serious electoral malpractice and abuse of office.

“I wish to inform you that the Commission has engaged Zambia Postal Services (ZAMPOST), the owners of the ferry operating between Chilubi and the surrounding districts to make available the transport services to all stakeholders and the general public. The commission is hopeful that the ZAMPOST station manager Mr Bangwa will comply and accord you the opportunity to move from the mainland to the island just like any mener of the public can access the ferry,” read the letter dated January 20, 2020 which was addressed to Akafumba.

In his complaint, Akafumba had asked the commission to suspend elections if the PF would not allow others to use the ferry.

“We are currently among the political parties that are going to participate in the forthcoming Chilubi Island by elections, whose nominations will be taking place tomorrow (today). Sadly, our officials travelling to Chilubi Island and currently at Samfya harbor, have been told that government has hired the ferry for the next 20 days and that all private vehicles cannot be allowed to pass. Our officials and vehicles have been stuck at the harbor for two days now, as they cannot pass over due to this. As the name suggests, the Patriotic Front, PF, government knows that Chilubi is an island and there is no other way we can access the place but through this same harbor. So if our vehicles are not allowed to be ferried then it means that we do not have access to Chilubi Island and no access to the elections,” stated Akafumba.

“This is election time and for government to do this at a time when other vehicles for other parties are supposed to be passing is a serious electoral malpractice and abuse of power of the highest kind. We would therefore like to urge the commission to intervene in this matter as the harbor is the only way to Chilubi Island. Failure to comply by the PF should then make the commission to suspend these elections as we will not be able to take part as we are constitutionally entitled to do so. Your positive consideration in the matter will be highly appreciated and we are available for any further discussions regarding this matter.”