ELECTORAL Commission of Zambia (ECZ) corporate affairs manager Patricia Luhanga says the Commission will not hesitate to disqualify the UPND from participating in the upcoming elections if police investigations give a reason to do so following the killing of two PF supporters in Kanyama.
And Luhanga says there was nothing sinister about the foreign material which was transported together with the last consignment of ballot papers.
Speaking when she featured on Hot FM’s Red Hot Breakfast show on, Tuesday, Luhanga said once the investigations were concluded, the Commission would then make further decisions.
“For us as the commission, we can easily go as far as disqualifying a political party or candidate. It is very clear in the Electoral Code of Conduct but we also want to have a basis. Remember, the investigation in terms of the criminal nature regarding what happened is still ongoing. And when the full information or determinant on the issue, then the Commission can come in. This is really disappointing not just for the Commission but the nation at large especially when you hear these political parties speaking peace on camera. So we will wait for the investigations to happen and concluded by the Zambia police and we should be able to put across a firm position to that effect. We do not know when that will conclude but the worst that we ought to do is to disqualify a party or a candidate with just eight days remaining to the elections. If we have to do that, we will do it,” Luhanga stated.
“As far as the Electoral Code of Conduct is concerned, we have suspended. There is a criminal nature and the Commission does not have jurisdiction to deal with criminal issues. Our role is to work closely with relevant authorities. Once decisions are made and we are communicated to, then we can evoke the rest of the processes. We have to follow the due processes of the law. So if the police have to conclude all the processes, if it has to go to court, then it has to go to court. The moment we jump on any process, you will be the people to call us out and say ‘on what basis [are] you are doing it’?”
Luhanga added that the information received regarding the two lives that were lost in Kanyama constituency was the basis of the commission’s decision to suspend the UPND from campaigning in the area.
“We have received information that two lives have been lost in violent activities and that is the basis of our decision to suspend the UPND from campaigning in Kanyama. There are two dimensions to this case. There is a criminal case which is not the Commission’s jurisdiction, it is under the Zambia police. The Commission’s jurisdiction is to deal with electoral issues and electoral violence is what happened. There is a narration to that story where the PF was preparing their meal and then they were attacked. I would not want to go into those details because we know to what extent the Zambia police has given out information and we are not in a position to be speaking on things that are outside our jurisdiction but we want to speak to the basis of what we know and the evidence that has been put on the table,” she said.
Luhanga further said it was unfortunate that electoral violence had continued despite political party leaders signing peace accords.
“You know when a life is lost, there are a lot of things that happen at family level as well as the nation. So we have ways in which we handle our own monitoring, that is in liaison with relevant authorities such as the Zambia police. We also have other stakeholders who help us with information. The Patriotic Front complained that they had two members of their party who had lost their lives in the killings that happened in Kanyama. First of all, from the commission, our role is to evoke the Electoral Code of Conduct. And when you look at the Code of Conduct, what does it say about violence? Getting back to the violence, remember the past two weeks, the Secretary Generals of the PF and the UPND, they were at the Commission signing the peace accord. They denounced violence and told their supporters that if anyone here is going to cause violence, you will be on your own. This was done in the presence of the police,” she said.
“The Commission had sent out a warning. We had suspended political parties. Worse off is when you see the Secretary Generals of the parties signing peace accords but the next thing you see is people killing each other. We have been pushed to the corner as the Commission. We would have loved a situation where political parties are left to campaign and see tolerance for each other’s views even if they are divergent. People should be allowed to support the political party of their choice without being killed. And the other thing that we have witnessed, when we meet these Secretary Generals and other party officials, they speak to each other but why is it that the grassroots are the ones that are killing each other when their leaders are friends?”
Meanwhile, Luhanga said the foreign material which was transported together with the last consignment of ballot papers had nothing to do with an intention of concealing any information or material.
“We have issued a statement to that effect and we embedded a letter that came from Emirates to the printer who was in contract with the airline to be able to transport the material back to Lusaka. The material which we call foreign material in the plane was differently wrapped. If the Commission wanted to conceal any information or any material, do you think they would have wrapped that material differently from the way the ballot papers were wrapped? The answer is no. The fact that it was differently wrapped and it was going to a different consignee, it simply means it had nothing to do with the commission. And for us, even the stakeholders themselves know to that effect because that consignment was opened in their presence. And some of the things they found there were phones. We had to engage the airline through the printer so that we could understand what had happened,” said Luhanga.
“If you look at that letter, they have clearly stated the policies that they follow. To that extent, they have said even if you have chartered a plane, they can add other things for them to maximize what needs to go. They will put those items on the plane. There are contractual obligations and that is why you did not hear from us as the Commission because we had to let the printer deal with the issue as well as the airline. The airline has stated clearly what caused that arrangement to be there. So in as much as we want to have a say in these issues, our role is to engage and understand what necessitated the transportation of these other materials. The airline has written in the letter what exactly transpired and what policies they follow. Remember there are all these protocols that are outside our jurisdiction when it comes to shipment and that is where our responsibility ends.”