THE Chapter One Foundation Human Rights report of 2020 has raised concerns over the possibility of ensuring a transparent, free and fair election in correctional facilities next August.
The report questioned whether and how opposition parties would be allowed to campaign in prisons where government had unquestionable authority.
“On 10 November, 2020, the incumbent President and leader of the ruling Patriotic Front political party paid an impromptu visit to the Mwembeshi Correctional Centres in Chilanga District. In a recording of his speech during the visit that has since been circulated on social media platforms, the President assures the inmates that things will become better, that they will be reformed and that by Christmas, several of them will be released, presumably in the exercise of the Presidential Prerogative of Mercy. The visit happened amidst several stakeholders raising concern over the manner in which elections will be conducted in prisons,” the Report read.
“In 2017, the Constitutional Court of Zambia declared that prisoners had the constitutional right to vote and that ECZ ought to take appropriate steps to ensure that prisoners are able to vote in the fast-approaching elections. The exercise of the right to vote by prisoners raises several concerns over the possibility of ensuring a transparent, free and fair election in a prison. Of equal concern is the ability of opposition parties to campaign within prisons, which are directly subject to State power. The visit by the President exacerbates these concerns and underscores the obvious inequality in access to eligible voters in prisons where the State exercises unquestionable authority.”
The report further questioned why the guidelines for prison voting were yet to be accessible to the general public.
“In an interview held on 11 November, 2020, ECZ’s Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano stated that voter registration of prisoners would be conducted in the last 7-day phase of the mobile voter registration exercise. Mr Nshindano also stated that the guidelines and legal drafting for prison voting had been concluded and had allegedly been presented to various stakeholders. However, these guidelines have yet to be made accessible to the general public, who are equally stakeholders,” the Report read.
And the Report further raised concern on the safety of women participating in active politics.
“On 14 November, 2020, Charmaine Musonda a member of the opposition UPND was physically assaulted and robbed at her home by suspected members of the ruling PF. The attack happened when she and other members of the UPND were preparing to attend a UPND rally. The attack raises concern for the safety of opposition candidates and especially female candidates, who are already greatly outnumbered in the upcoming campaign period. Although the police have stated that an investigation has been launched into the incident, no arrests have been made,” read the Report.