PF Media Director Antonio Mwanza says party members who will defy President Edgar Lungu’s directive that PF will not be holding public rallies owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, will face disciplinary action.

In an interview, Mwanza said the banning of public rallies by the PF was real.

He further stated that the statement by Transparency International Zambia describing the PF ban on rallies as a cosmetic one, was mischievous.

“First of all, I want to say that the banning of rallies by PF is not purported, it’s real. And the statement by Transparency International is extremely mischievous and gross misinformation to the public because here are the facts: (i) The Public Health Act No. 295 coupled with the statutory instruments No.21 and 22 on the COVID-19 health guidelines are very explicit that public gatherings, huge public gatherings in light of the COVID-19, are banned. These are legal matters and statutory instrument No. 21 and 22 are still in force and these two statutory instruments which are in compliance with the Public Health Act No. 295 explicitly ban huge gatherings. It is in the law. It is not even an issue of an opinion. It is the law. They ban huge public gatherings,” Mwanza said.

“Therefore, us as a party we are simply enforcing statutory instrument No. 21 and 22, we are simply being compliant. And if you look at the standard operating procedures that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has put in place, they [are] also discourage huge public gatherings because we are aware that there is a third wave of COVID-19. I think it is only responsible for us leaders that we should follow the law and that we should protect the lives and health of the people of Zambia.”

And Mwanza said the ban on political rallies was not a gimmick to stop anyone from campaigning.

“So it has got nothing to do with preference, or a gimmick to stop anyone from campaigning. No. It is what the law states and his Excellence President Edgar Chagwa Lungu yesterday reiterated that he wants to make sure that the police and the health authorities enforce these two statutory instruments to make sure that we protect the lives and health of the Zambian people. So I find it very mischievous that an institution like Transparency International Zambia can be holding press briefings to incite people to actually ignore public health and ignore statutory instruments which by law are enforceable. I don’t know how transparent they are, I think it is important that they look back at what they stand for and stop politicking with people’s lives. This is life and health we are talking about,” he said.

“We are seen people dying like flies in India and we have seen how many Zambians have died and how many Zambians today are still in ICU because of COVID-19. And it is just normal that all of us must be responsible enough to protect people’s lives. We cannot put people in harm’s way just because there is an election, this election will end on 12 August. So how many people does Transparency International Zambia want to see dying of COVID-19 for them to realise that COVID-19 is real and that we must enforce the law?”

Mwanza cautioned that party members who would defy President Lungu’s directive would face disciplinary action.

“This directive is based on the law and it has been given by the highest organ of the party, the President himself. And anybody who will defy these directives by the President will face disciplinary action,” he said.

In a statement, Wednesday, TIZ described the PF ban on rallies as cosmetic and mischievous.

“It therefore appears to us that the purported ban is a cosmetic one designed to advance the false narrative that the PF are heeding to the advice given by the ECZ,” said TIZ executive director Maurice Nyambe.