UPND has asked the European Union (EU) to aggressively interrogate issues surrounding political violence in Zambia, the 2021 general election and the fight against corruption, among others in the forthcoming Zambia – EU annual meeting.

In an open letter to the EU, UPND secretary general Stephen Katuka pleaded with the EU to help Zambians tame the ruling Patriotic Front’s insatiable appetite for power, which he said was being used on a crusade to punish opponents, while protecting wayward PF supporters.

He implored the EU to use its influence over the Zambian government to ensure that Zambia held free and fair elections next year without violence so that the results truly reflect the will of the citizenry.

“In August, 2021, Zambia will hold its presidential and general elections. In order to be able to participate in these elections, the Zambian Constitution demands that all political parties should hold ward, constituency, district, provincial and national elections where all positions should be free to be contested for in order to qualify to participate in the general elections. But to this date, opposition parties have found this to be a daunting task as the Patriotic Front government has seemingly instructed the Zambia Police not to allow the opposition parties to gather for purposes of achieving this constitutional requirement in spite of having put in place all COVID-19 prevention measures and giving the requisite not less than seven days’ notice to the police. On the other hand, the ruling party is being allowed to hold its intra-party elections. If left unchecked, this action by the PF has the intended consequence of suspending Zambia’s democratic dispensation by manipulating constitutional provisions with an intention of eliminating some political parties from the 2021 election process,” Katuka stated.

“As regards voter registration, we are of the opinion that a number of Zambians are at risk of being disenfranchised as the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has in an arbitrary manner gone ahead to halve the voter registration period from the initial provided-for 60 to 30 days against all sound advice and protests as many do not see how they can cross-check and add nine million voter registration records as the process is very tedious. This act is being done in tandem with not issuing National Registration Cards, which are a prerequisite to voter registration, in opposition strongholds whilst the same exercise has for a while now been running smoothly in perceived Patriotic Front strongholds. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has also given notice of its intention to cancel the current voter register and create a new register of nine million. Aside from it being an attempt to manipulate the Voter Registration, we do not see what malaise they are trying to remedy considering that this will be a direct violation of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016, which mandates the Commission to conduct Continuous Voter Registration.”

Katuka appealed to the EU to interrogate Zambia’s peace and security with a special focus on tribal politics being perpetuated by the ruling party.

Katuka also brought to the EU’s attention the lip-service President Edgar Lungu and his government was rendering to the fight against corruption.

“Corruption continues to be endemic within the echelons of the ruling elite and their surrogates as evidenced by the number of senior government officials and parastatal chiefs that continue to be summoned by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) for interrogation for corrupt practices. Such suspects are not even allowed to temporarily stand aside to allow for investigations as they maintain their official authority and powers, which they then use to intimidate investigative and judicial officers. Case in point is when the Health Minister (Dr Chitalu Chilufya) in July, 2020, had to have his corruption case postponed after he used the powers attached to his office to overrun the court premises,” he recalled.

“Judging that the findings as contained in the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC) (Trends) reports remain not acted on, it is not beyond reproach to speculate that the PF government only gives lip service to the fight against corruption more so that there are a lot of Politically-Exposed Persons (PEPs) cases implied in the FIC reports. In the absence of the political will to fight corruption, the ACC is not sufficiently empowered to prosecute the detailed high profile cases.”

Meanwhile, Katuka appealed to the EU to scrutinise the electoral reform process that sought the inclusion of participation of prisoners in elections and ensure that this was not just a scheme by the ruling party to rig elections.

“One of the intended deliverables of the electoral reforms was that prisoners be allowed to vote from August, 2021. This amendment has been proposed though the modalities of how to apply it are yet to be known or put in place. It is very important that this process be as transparent as possible to avoid the prisons being turned into a rigging platform. To put it in context, to our total dismay, none other than the Commissioner of Zambian Prisons is on verbal record as having instructed his officers not to allow the opposition parties into prisons. How, then, are we expected to campaign and monitor the electoral process when the prison institutions are superintended over by an openly politically biased public official? In light of the foregoing, we strongly suggest that the prisoner voting be suspended for the 2021 elections to allow for ample time to put up strong processes and attendant controls. We are alive to the fact that this proposal has the unintended consequence of disenfranchising our prisoners, but in the spirit of delivering a people’s will-driven election result, it will, on the other hand, protect the electoral intentions of the majority,” stated Katuka.