UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka says the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is a toothless bulldog and can therefore not act on bribery allegations against the ruling Patriotic Front.

And Katuka says the PF cannot win an election without malpractice.

ECZ Chief Elections Officer Patrick Nshindano on Monday said opposition political parties rush to make allegations against the electoral body to the media instead of utilising the established channels within the ECZ to air their concerns regarding the electoral process.

He said even the matter of the alleged bribery cases in Chilubi ahead of next month’s by-election had not been reported by any of the participating political parties and other stakeholders, but were only making accusations in the media.

He said because of that, the Commission could not probe the allegations until they are officially lodged with the ECZ.

“As it stands now, it is a mere allegation but of course, whenever something comes to our attention, we do put our people on the ground, we do investigate and validate any accusations that come out because it is important that we do that. And if it is deemed that it is breaching the Electoral Code of Conduct, as a commission, we also need to act. Also just to note that there are structures on the ground that are placed to resolve any conflicts…like, for example, the district conflict resolution committees. So if there are any aspects, they need to be taken to them and these committees actually comprise of all political parties. [But] allegations are made in the media and not officially to the electoral commission and even if accusations are made in the media or to the Electoral Commission, they do not provide sound basis in which to reform any policy or law,” said Nshindano.

“This is why we are saying that there are structures which are able to resolve this but unfortunately, a number of stakeholders don’t want to utilise these structures. Unfortunately, these structures are ignored and they would rather basically just throw accusations out there instead of taking advantage of the structures.”

However, Katuka, in response, said it was difficult for the opposition to keep writing to the ECZ because it was not acting to stop the PF’s malpractices during elections.

“We have Conflict Resolution Committees in every by-election; we have written to ECZ. Remember when we were blocked to go in the hired ferry? They also did not allow to transport our vehicles across [the island], only the PF. That [issue] has been written to ECZ and I have records from ECZ here; we wrote to them and they have even responded. We also wrote to the police on the treatment of our members by the officer-in-charge there. So what else do they want us to do? At the local level, they are dealing with the conflict resolution committee there but I have personally written to ECZ and I have written to the Zambian police. It is always a lukewarm type of reaction we get,” Katuka said.

“We have written to ECZ complaining what is happening in Chilubi; the local guys on the ground have also been complaining to the Conflict Resolution Committee. We have been complaining, we have not just sat back but you know that ECZ is just a toothless bull dog! It has no teeth to bite.”

He said the only solution to stop electoral malpractices was to have an independent electoral commission.

“That is why we have been demanding for an independent electoral commission, not this one we have. If there are people we talk and write to, it is the ECZ because of the way they handle elections. We have written to them, we have had meetings with them, we have even stormed their offices without notice. We have done everything we could but no tangible reaction. In an election, we expect that the ECZ is above the police but what we see is that the police take over and become in charge; they control the ECZ as well. We will continue talking about these things and the solution is to have an independent electoral commission. This is the PF electoral commission; we need an independent one. This one colludes with PF all the time,” Katuka claimed.

And Katuka alleged that the PF does not win elections.

“…they have never won an election, they steal elections, even by-elections, they buy. You heard the discussion in Solwezi where PF North Western provincial information and publicity secretary Dr Tom Mushinge came out very strongly that ‘we do not win, we just buy’. That is already what is happening in Chilubi; because we have seen a truckload of mealie meal and bicycles for malaria programmes are being delivered for campaign purposes. So, [the PF] have been bribing people in order to try and win an election, more especially when they find that it is getting tough for them,” he said.

“In Chilubi, they have taken bicycles; I was hearing the other day GBM was busy buying pangas in Kasama. So now when the going gets tough, they will resort to pangas. All those are election malpractices; that is what they do in order to win an election. On a level playing field, PF cannot win an election. Even in Chilubi, if it is free, fair and credible, they will not win. They have to do a lot of malpractices and violence and so on to win. So we are all aware and our eyes are on the ball.”

Katuka said the distribution of foodstuffs and other materials during a by-election by the PF should not be supported.

“In fact, when there is an election in an area, you can’t go in and say ‘we are taking development programs’, there is nothing wrong with you suspending those during by-elections. You can allow projects to happen but if there is an election, you can’t be taking what we call development in an area because that will be considered malpractice. You are doing the roads which were not there before; you are sending ambulances which were not there before; that is malpractice,” he added.

“There was a sitting MP is Chilubi; the work she had done is the work we will consider as development. Government must have built schools, hospitals and roads; that is development. But what they are doing now is they are doing a road. Only a fool will take that as development; that is bribery, trying to buy the vote.

Katuka said the PF were desperate to win an election as their popularity had continued to dwindle.

“I don’t know where this cancer comes from, we used to go through that under the MMD. When there is a by-election they would bring graders, start grading roads. Immediately after the by-elections, they will pull out those graders. Whether they win or lose, they will pull them out,” said Katuka.

” I will tell you that the ambulance which [health minister Dr] Chitalu Chilufya took to Chilubi does not belong to Chilubi and after the by-election, it will be withdrawn. They are going to be told ‘it has gone for servicing’ and it will go for good.”