CIVIL Society Constitution Agenda (CiSCA) Chairperson Judith Mulenga has warned that there might be civil strife should ECZ proceed to disqualify any political party from participating in the upcoming elections based on police investigations alone.
On Tuesday, Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) corporate affairs manager Patricia Luhanga said the Commission would not hesitate to disqualify the UPND from participating in the Kanyama elections if police investigations gave them a reason to do so following the killing of two PF supporters in that area.
But in an interview, Mulenga urged ECZ to let the law take its course as the matter was a criminal one.
“If the Electoral Commission of Zambia goes ahead to suspend any political party including the UPND, anything can happen and we have seen it happen. Like when we are talking about political violence, these are early warning signs. These have been ignored at our own peril and now we are seeing lives being lost under very unclear circumstances. People do not even understand what is happening. So the best thing to do is to ensure that the law takes its course and the elections go on without leading to a situation where there could be civil strife in the country. We do not need that and I do not think anybody wants to get into power through that kind of situation,” she said.
“First of all, the fact is that people were killed. In fact, they did not die by natural causes but they died through some kind of violence. This is a criminal matter and they have already arrested suspects so the due process of the law has already begun. People died in unnatural circumstances and the police arrested people suspected to have been involved in the murder of the two young men. So it is already a criminal matter. And this is what we have been saying that political violence is still violence, it does not matter who is perpetrating it. So it does not mean that if it is violence emanating from a political disagreement and then the treatment of people involved should be any different from any violence that is happening from any other type of violence like GBV. So it should be treated the same way as a criminal offence. If they have been arrested, those people are innocent until proven guilty. So that means they should be treated as suspects until the competent courts of law prove them guilty, then we will know that they were involved in the murder.”
Mulenga noted that it would be difficult to prove that the victims and suspects belonged to different political parties.
“As to whether they belonged to a political party or not, that is a very difficult issue to determine. For example, the PF are claiming the victims as theirs, but how can they prove that those are their supporters? Is it because they were wearing regalia? PF does not have membership. So how can they prove that they were PF and how do they prove that the people they have arrested are UPND? So unless the two parties show proof that these are our people and here are their names registered as our members and they were in the business of campaigning at the time this happened. I keep hearing that they died brutally but the UPND also has pictures of people being hacked,” Mulenga said.
Mulenga further called on ECZ not to make decisions that could worsen the anxiety among Zambians ahead of the elections.
“I am not saying that what has happened is fine, it is not. There is no need for a life to be lost over elections that should be a normal occurrence in a multiparty democracy. And we have been appealing as a civil society that let us lessen the anxiety and tension and tame the cadres on both sides. The cadres would play the blame game but the balance of probability comes in. So if two people are saying different things then one is lying. It is now up to the court to prove what is right. So I think ECZ should really think through their actions, especially this close to the election. The Zambians are under a lot of anxiety. The loss of life is unacceptable. In the same way Nsama Nsama and Joseph Kaunda’s lives were lost. That is absolutely unacceptable and we must put an end to this but not in a way that tampers with fair elections. Let them do the right thing and facilitate this process of ensuring that afterward, we can go back to One Zambia, One Nation. The divisions and polarization that is there have been ignored,” said Mulenga.
“For us, we are saying that let the police handle that and let the Electoral Commission of Zambia focus on the business of facilitating a free and fair election. The elections are next week, so are they going to postpone the elections until this case is dealt with? We have several recordings on social media of UPND complaining about this and that but the swift action is very slow by the ECZ. All elections are a human rights issue so they are not a sovereignty issue. ECZ may think that they can run this as they want but they are not only accountable to us the Zambian people but they are accountable to the international community as well. So if they do things that are not in line with what is expected, it is at our own peril as a country.”