A LOW voter turnout characterised yesterday’s highly anticipated Kabwata by-elections.
Most polling stations opened at exactly 06:00 hours but had less than 100 people in queues.
A check at Chilenje’s main library found little activity, the same could be reported about Chilenje Community Hall where only 50 people had voted by 08:45 hours.
At St Patrick’s Girls school, only about 100 people had cast their vote by 12:20 hours in all the four polling stations and one of the presiding officers who sought anonymity said people were not interested to vote as most youths were drinking alcohol.
However, at Kamulanga Secondary School, the voter turnout was average as most people were expected to vote in the afternoon.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) cautioned voters to desist from taking and posting pictures of marked ballot papers on social media saying it is a breach of the provisions of the law.
Democratic Party candidate Fred Mubanga, who cast his vote at Libala Secondary School, said he was not worried about the turnout because he had sold his message well.
“I am a very excited man actually and the man you are seeing is the first member of parliament for Democratic Party and it gives me a lot of joy. People tried to block us but God in his own way ensured that we prevail and we have prevailed. So victory is for the people in Kabwata. The voter turnout is not worrying really because we did our part, we talked to the people, we sold our message and people were excited. It is unfortunate that there is voter apathy but I am just appealing to the people that have not voted to come and exercise their right,” said Mubanga.
Chilufya Tayali of Equity and Economic Party, who is not a registered voter in Kabwata, argued that as far as the law was concerned, one could contest in any constituency as long as he or she was a voter.
“It is not about where you are voting, it is about representation. I am going to represent the people of Kabwata. Though I don’t vote from Kabwata, the law is very clear that as long as you are a voter, you are eligible to contest in any constituency throughout the country. If you have seen, most of the members of the parliament do not reside in the constituencies which they represent. But nonetheless, there is nothing wrong. As far as the law is concerned, you can contest in any constituency as long as you are a voter. In terms of representation, it is about how the person is available to the people of the constituency. I am one of the most available people for the Kabwata Constituency because even those who grew up from here are not known the way I am known. I am offering the people of Kabwata effective representation, delivering on their plight when I go to Parliament and I am offering the people of Kabwata checks and balances they need on the ruling party,” Tayali said.
He attributed the voter apathy to lack of sensitisation by ECZ after the poll day was changed.
“My take on the apathy is mostly because we are coming from a general election so there is fatigue from the electorate. I think the changing of the dates…remember we were supposed to vote on the 20th unfortunately because of the withdrawal, the date was changed [to] today (yesterday). I am sure that disturbed a lot of people. It is a fact that there are some people who don’t know that today is voting day,” said Tayali.
“There has not been much sensitisation, especially from the ECZ point of view. Because when there is a change like that, ECZ must do everything to sensitize the people. The other point is that today is a working day and some of us were calling on government to give guidance so that at least there can be that directive that people should be allowed to come and vote, at least give them a half day. Kabwata is middle class, a lot of people work and if you put voting on a working day, it is difficult for them. I am very confident of carrying the day.”
Andrew Tayengwa of UPND weighed in on his chances of scooping the seat.
“We are very confident of carrying the day. There are many UPND policies that we had promised in 2021 and we have made sure that these policies are implemented. Look at the free education, it is already implemented, we have also managed to pay council workers on time. And there are no cadres collecting money in bus stations. It is a plus for us as UPND. Kamulanga and Maploto are my priorities, we will look at the drainage systems and the roads. We have not experienced violence even on the day of voting. We are not like PF because in the time of PF by now we would have seen teargas all over, police beating up citizens. This is the Zambia we wanted and we are actually on the right path to develop the country,” said Tayengwa.
“I am a very confident man. I know the work that I have done. It is UPND that is retaining the seat and we are going to get it back. The results will not come out in the opposite direction. I am a very positive person, I am confident, I am winning this election by over 60 percent.”
He said the voter turnout would not affect him because he was going to carry the day.
PF candidate Clement Tembo said the voter turnout was not exciting but that it was a people’s vote.
“I know that the turn is not good, it is not very exciting. Maybe it is coupled with the issues that people are still working. Maybe later in the day we expect to have a good turnout. But this is a people’s vote, a people’s choice,” said Tembo.
Meanwhile, ECZ Corporate Affairs Manager Patricia Luhanga said circulating marked ballot papers undermined the credibility and transparency of elections.
“The Electoral Commission of Zambia has noted with serious concern pictures of marked ballot papers circulating on various social media platforms. The Commission has also noted that pictures of marked ballot papers are being shared by voters in the ongoing Kabwata Parliamentary by-election. The Commission would like to remind all political parties and voters in general that this act undermines the credibility and transparency of elections,” stated Luhanga.
“The Constitution requires that eligible persons vote in an election by secret ballot. Further, the Electoral Process Act under General Regulations made under SI No. 63 of 2016 Regulation 36 prohibits the use of electronic devices in the polling station. The Commission would therefore like to caution voters to desist from taking and posting pictures of marked ballot papers on social media as this is in breach of the provisions of the law.”