ANTI-VOTER Apathy (AVAP) executive director Richwell Mulwani has advised the Patriotic Front (PF) to find a neutral platform where the eligibility of President Edgar Lungu can be discussed to avoid conflict in next year’s general election.

In an interview with News Diggers!, Mulwani urged the ruling party to carefully analyze the Republican Constitution in terms of eligibility, adding that if the uncertainty surrounding President Lungu’s eligibility remained unresolved, it would be a source of conflict within the PF, which would also spill over countrywide.

“Our role as an organisation is to ensure that there is harmony in the country and to ensure that everyone goes to the polls with that desire to go and vote. But if there are debates such as the eligibility debate going on, that locks a political party and it becomes a serious worry. This is what makes people fail to vote; it makes people distance themselves from voting because they don’t want to associate themselves with such confusion. Because where there is such a debate, you should know for sure that there can be confusion and where there is confusion… you don’t expect that the electoral process is going to be respected. That is where, now, you find that people start fighting among themselves and other people are barred from contesting elections, while others are beaten and all that,” Mulwani said.

“So, what we are saying as AVAP is that this issue of the eligibility of President Edgar Lungu has to be addressed by PF members as soon as they can. They need to look at what is provided for by the Constitution and then, if at all there is an Article that really shows that he is not eligible, let them address that issue because if they do not address it, it’s a source of conflict within the political party and it will also spill over to the people of Zambia. So, PF should look for a neutral platform where this will be discussed within the party and then agreed on so that they can have one candidate that’s going to be fielded in as PF. Without that, then it will mean that they are not doing a service to their own party and to the people of Zambia in general.”

He urged the PF to show leadership by rising above their challenges as a ruling party and resolve to pick one eligible candidate that would stand on the party ticket for the August 2021 general election.

“PF is the political party that is in power, and since it is the political party that is in power, it means that they need to systematically move together as a political party. They need to systematically address the concerns that the people of Zambia are having. That constitutional issue that is locking the PF and the people of Zambia questioning the eligibility of President Lungu must be addressed now. We should not pretend that it is going to be addressed during the time of the nominations because we don’t know, other people may challenge his nomination at the last minute and that is going to put the country at a very high risk. So, our advice is that the PF, as they try to go to the convention [in July], that should be one of their biggest agenda items so that they are able to do it in a very peaceful manner because we don’t doubt their capacity as a political party to address this matter,” said Mulwani.

“Moreover, it’s about people voting for a candidate of their own choice at the convention. So, it means all members of PF must be able to have a process that is transparent, a process that is built on confidence and consensus so that everyone agrees to what they want to do at that particular time. The convention should not divide people. We don’t want to see a situation like what happened during the time of MMD. So, we are challenging PF to show that they are one and they should do it starting from building confidence within the party. Those squabbles are not necessary, violence is not necessary, conflicts are not necessary. What is necessary is: what is it that they want to do together? I think that is timely advice to the PF. We want to see them rise above their challenges.”