THE CHRISTIAN Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) says it is concerned with three incidents of violence which involved UPND as perpetrators while PF were victims in two incidents, in the recently held Kabwata by-election.
And the CCMG says at least one individual voted without the requisite documents (NRC).
In a joint statement, the Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ); Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ); Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflections (JCTR); and Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) roundly said the the electoral environment being generally calm and peaceful.
“The objective of CCMG’s by-election project was to contribute to enhanced transparency and accountability of the Kabwata Parliamentary by-election by providing systematic factual information on the conduct of the process, and inclusion by giving voters the confidence to participate in the electoral process. Despite the electoral environment being generally calm and peaceful, CCMG notes with concern three incidents of violence which involved UPND as perpetrators while PF were victims in two incidents and community members in one, and one use of inflammatory and insulting language. These acts violate the Electoral Code of Conduct and CCMG calls on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Police to investigate all acts of politically motivated violence and punish the perpetrators,” read the statement.
“CCMG also calls on UPND and PF, to immediately take disciplinary action against those members responsible for these acts and for all political parties to ensure that members found perpetrating violence or other violations of the Code face consequences,”
CCMG highlighted some of these incidents.
“In one incident, a CCMG monitor in Chilenje reported an incident of violence outside Valetta Community School where UPND members and PF members clashed after the PF candidate was seen distributing money and other unidentified items to voters to the displeasure of the UPND members. Police intervened and dispersed the crowds, and two (2) people of unknown affiliation were arrested,” CCMG explained.
“In another incident, a Presiding Officer at New Kamwala South Primary School was harassed and insulted by PF agents for not allowing more than one agent into the polling station when at least two PF agents attempted to enter the polling station, while in another incident at Kabwata Primary School, a male voter was allowed to vote with a soft copy of an NRC. Another incident was reported at Valetta Community School, PF cadres distributed campaign fliers within 400m of the polling station before they were stopped by the police. In another incident at Kamulanga Secondary School, a polling official was intimidated and harassed by an unidentified individual following a dispute over insufficient light inside the polling station during counting of ballot papers.”
CCMG noted that voter education was poor.
“Voter education, particularly targeting women, youth, and persons with disabilities, was low with 40% of CCMG’s monitors reporting witnessing or hearing of voter information/education activities aimed at youth, 30% reporting witnessing or hearing of voter information/education activities aimed at women, and 10% reporting hearing of voter information/education activities aimed at persons with disabilities. CCMG calls on the ECZ, the District Voter Education Committees (DVEC), civil society organizations (CSOs), and the media to increase their efforts in future elections to provide accessible information to all voters, with a particular focus on marginalized groups and including information on COVID-19 mitigation measures,” CCMG stated.
CCMG stated that at 1% of polling stations, polling officials did not mark one voter’s finger with indelible ink prior to voting.
“CCMG finds that the Kabwata Parliamentary by-elections mostly followed the standard procedures for the set-up, voting and counting processes. All of CCMG’s monitors who deployed to polling stations were permitted to observe. At 1% of polling stations, polling officials did not check the fingers of potential voters for indelible ink prior to voting, and at 1% of polling stations, polling officials did not mark one voter’s finger with indelible ink prior to voting. At 1% of polling stations, at least one (1) individual voted without the requisite documents (NRC). CCMG further notes that 50% of polling stations did not have Braille Jackets for blind voters while all other required materials were present at the start of voting, and that political party representatives were present in all polling stations,” it stated.
CCMG noted that Covid-19 protocols were adhered to.
“CCMG notes that ECZ officials and stakeholders generally adhered to the COVID-19 protocols, including the use of social distancing in the set up of polling stations (82%) and providing hand washing or sanitizing facilities (93%). These rates are comparable to the rates seen in the 12 August 2021 elections. The use of thermo scanners continues to be low (11% compared to 14% in the Chisamba, Kaumbwe and Lusangazi by-elections in October 2021, and 14% for the 12 August 2021 elections), and CCMG encourages continued and increased adherence to all COVID-19 mitigation measures set out by the ECZ and Ministry of Health. At those polling stations where there were voters in the queue at 18hrs, all were given an opportunity to vote,” CCMG noted.
They stated that at all the polling stations, both PF and UPND agents were available.
“PF party agents were present for the counting of ballot papers at 99% of polling stations while UPND party agents were present for counting at 98% of polling stations. In all the polling stations where there were party agents for PF, UPND and other parties or independent candidates, they all agreed with the results, signed the results forms and each was given a copy. At all polling stations, ballot papers were counted at the polling station where they were cast; all ballot papers were shown to all party agents and monitors present so they could see how each ballot paper was marked; all ballot papers were sorted into individual piles by candidate. At 100% of polling stations where PF or UPND party agents were present they agreed with the by-election results,” they stated.
The CCMG called on the ECZ to urgently engage with stakeholders to kickstart the process for electoral reforms and asked the Commission to investigate breaches of the electoral code of conduct.
“At 9% of polling stations, however, results were not posted at the polling station for the public to see. CCMG will endeavor to engage with key stakeholders, including the ECZ, the Zambia Police, political parties, media houses and CSOs, to share its findings and key recommendations below: CCMG was concerned by the postponement of the Kabwata Parliamentary By-Election from January 20 to February 3 due to the withdrawal of a candidate who invoked article 52(6) of the Zambian Constitution, and calls on the ECZ to urgently engage with stakeholders to kickstart the process for electoral reforms based on identified gaps in the legal framework governing elections in Zambia,” read the statement.
“CCMG calls on the ECZ to actively investigate the following breaches of the Electoral Code of Conduct which occurred during the two weeks preceding the by-election: three incidents of politically-motivated violence, and one incident of use of inflammatory and insulting language. According to the powers provided in the Electoral Process Act, the ECZ should take action against parties, candidates, and others that violate provisions of the Electoral Process Act. Failure to do so creates an environment of impunity and undermines voter confidence in electoral processes.”
CCMG observed that accreditation by ECZ was unnecessarily cumbersome, burdensome and complicated.
“CCMG continues to note that the ECZ’s accreditation procedures for election monitors are unnecessarily cumbersome, burdensome and complicated, and continues to recommend that the ECZ revise its accreditation procedures in line with international best practices and regional standards that the ECZ is party to, notably the Principles for Election Management, Monitoring, and Observation in the SADC Region (PEMMO). These include the simplification of the accreditation process; elimination of any requirement to provide the polling station where the monitor is to observe; elimination of the required multiple certified documents/application forms; and the elimination of the need to appear in-person for accreditation,” stated CCMG.
“Furthermore, CCMG notes that accreditation procedures continue to be applied unevenly by District Electoral Officers and recommends the simplification of these procedures and additional training for District Electoral Officers to enhance the transparency of the electoral process. CCMG further notes, with concern, the limit set on the accreditation of roving monitors for this by-election to one roving monitor per ward per organization, and urges the ECZ to refrain from imposing such limits on election observer groups as such acts threaten to undermine the integrity of an election.”
They also stated that the campaign schedules reduced party clashes.