HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo has urged political parties not to use COVID-19 as an excuse to perpetrate their “dictatorial tendencies” by avoiding intra-party elections.

He was speaking in Parliament, Tuesday, in response to a question from Lufubu PF member of parliament Gift Chiyalika who wanted to know how many registered political parties there were as of December, 2019; whether the political parties are compliant with the requirement to conduct intra-party elections in accordance with Article 60 of the Republican Constitution; and if not, whether there are any plans to deregister the non-compliant political parties before the 2021 General Elections.

In response to a follow up question from Mazabuka Central UPND member of parliament Gary Nkombo who wanted confirmation that overzealous police officers would not stop political parties which are desirous to fulfil the constitutional requirement, Kampyongo said the role of the police was not to stifle anyone but ensure that processes were done in accordance with the law.

“We don’t want to stifle, I don’t think the role of police is to try and stop people from the democratic processes but you should know that the interest that comes with elections are very well known and they can culminate into conflicts. We know that you have got some issues to sort out in Western Province and we are trying to make sure that the situation is calm because they are all Zambians even where the contestations are. So we have to make sure that we are available to the political parties and it’s important that even you as opposition political parties ensure that there is police presence when you are doing your activities to prevent what happened in Kanyama where unruly cadres got out of hand and we lost a life which shouldn’t have been the case. So we are available for engagements Mr Speaker to ensure that these processes are done in accordance with the law,” Kampyongo said.

“In my response, Mr Speaker, I will start by referring to the engagement I had with him and other leaders of his political party some time last year when these COVID-19, the first wave was prevailing. We discussed at length on what needed to be done and I want to just remind him that what is required is consultation, engagement, Ministry of Health on one hand, the law enforcement agencies on another hand and indeed guidance can be given. We don’t want political parties to use the COVID-19 as an excuse to promote dictatorial tendencies that have been seen in many political parties. We as government are willing just as we engaged on the possibilities of having democratic processes being done in the intra party elections. Just as the Electoral Commission of Zambia has been advising all of us on how to start thinking of new modalities of engaging the people, so it’s within that context that we should engage and see how can facilitate these processes.”

He said there were no current plans to deregister any political party based on failure to hold elections within the parties.

“Mr Speaker, as I respond, I want to make it clear, and I wouldn’t want the Honorable member to put words in my mouth. I was saying Sir that currently, there are no plans to deregister any political party on the basis on non-compliance to Article 60 sub article 2(d) of the republican constitution and I went further to say however, political parties should comply with the provisions of the Societies Act Cap 119 of the laws of Zambia. As to the yardstick, Mr Speaker, first and foremost this Registrar of Societies Act Cap 119 has got provisions which must be followed by the registered societies including political parties and in addition, political parties do submit their constitutions as they are being registered as to form part of the regulations of how they will be conducting their activities and that forms part of the requirement which needs to be used as a yardstick to monitor whether indeed these political parties are following what they have prescribed for themselves,” said Kampyongo.

“Further, they are required to submit returns, annual returns of their activities and through this submission of annual returns and of course paying of statutory fees as prescribed which forms part of the compliance and so if political parties are not complying to the other requirements, the Registrar of Societies as provided for in the act can act and deregister a political party. So it’s not just Article 60. In any case Mr Speaker, I must mention that we are in a process, government has given approval to the reviewing of this act which was done prior to before we attained independence, the Societies Act Cap 119. So we have to amend it and align it in order to operationalise Article 60 fully because there are elements of Article 60 that needs to be operationalised. So this can only be done by subsidiary registration which is an act of parliament. There was an attempt to come up with Political Parties Bill which didn’t reach consensus but government will proceed by amending Societies Act Cap 119 of the laws of Zambia and make sure that they operationalise fully the elements of Article 60.”