2021 is knocking, where’re the Commission of Inquiry results on 2016 violence?

Police officer teargas a UPND cadre in Lusaka

Three years ago, President Edgar Lungu, appointed a Commission of Inquiry to investigate the leading cause of electoral violence, as well as to look into the voting patterns of all general elections between 2006 and 2016.

We thought this was a mockery to the victims who lost lives at the hands of the heavy-handed police force as well as state sponsored PF militia, prior to the August 11 polls that year. In fact, many people condemned the appointment and branded it a waste of public resources.

However, our ‘peace-loving Dr Humble Leader’ went ahead to assign eminent citizens to take part in this investigation. To his credit, President Lungu appointed high caliber names to the commission, giving his decision a semblance of reasonableness.
The Commission was chaired by retired Supreme Court Judge Munalula Lisimba, who was deputized by madam Marvis Chisanga with two secretaries namely, Nzovwa Chomba and Mike Mulabe.

Members included Fr. Lastone Lupupa, Mr. Charles Kafunda, Mr. Lee Habasonda, Mr. Rueben Lifuka, Dr. M.C .Bwalya, Mrs. Maureen Siamulele, Prof. Owen Sichone, Mr. Redson Nyanga, Ms. Flora K. Mooya, Mr. Wilfred Chilufya and His Royal Highness Senior Chief Ntambo.

Seeing these names, we became hopeful that maybe the Commission was a worthwhile undertaking. We had reason to feel that way because most of these names were not known to be PF surrogates. So we hoped that this Commission would not only expose the sponsors of electoral violence, but also come up with recommendations that would prevent the occurrence of violence in future elections and ensure that voting outcomes are reflective of the people’s free will.

We also took interest in the terms of reference for this Commission of Inquiry, as it was mandated to examine the role that the Media and social media in particular, played during campaigns and subsequent elections. According to Statutory Instrument No. 72 of 2016, the specific terms and conditions of the Commission of Inquiry on Violence were:

1. To inquire into the root causes of the voting patterns from 2006 to 2016. (Under this directive, the Commission was expected to establish the extent to which pre-election political violence influenced the voting patterns)

2. To bring to the fore the social, economic and political consequences of the 2016 voting patterns.

3. To inquire into the role of the media, including social media influence in shaping voters’ views.

4. To inquire into incidences and causes of voter apathy in some parts of the country in order to establish why some eligible and registered voters did not vote.

5. To solicit for submissions from members of the general public including video evidence that would be useful in identifying persons, organisations or institutions that instigated or were responsible for the violence.

6. To seek submissions from the public on whether any damage was caused to any private property or public facility or infrastructure.

7. To investigate the impact of violence, the number of persons who were directly affected, injured, displaced or killed by the pre and post-election violence.

8. To establish if a hostile environment has persisted in the areas which were affected by violence, such that democracy could not prevail during future elections.

9. To seek submissions and review the conduct of the state agencies (i.e. the Police, the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Anti Corruption Commission) during the election period.

10. To establish whether any persons were arrested or detained for causing violence or damage to property in the pre and post-election period.

President Lungu directed that this Commission must recommend measures to be taken to ensure that voting outcomes are reflective of people’s free will in any election, prevent the occurrence of violence in future elections and recommend appropriate action to be taken against the perpetrators of the violence.

This Commission started its countrywide tour for public sittings on December 19, 2016 and according to it’s website, public response was overwhelming with scores of people from different walks of life, among them farmers, students, the clergy, former civil servants, former cabinet ministers and others making submissions. It must be emphasized that colossal sums of money were spent on this undertaking.

It is now three years, where is the report compiled by this Commission? Judge Lisimba and his team were given 120 days within which to submit the findings, they failed. In May 2017, Secretary to the Cabinet Dr Roland Msiska announced an extension of this Commission’s mandate to November 2017. A year and six months have passed since the fresh deadline, still we have not heard anything from them and 2021 is now knocking. What is going on?

We are concerned that this commission is dying a natural death, just like the many other Commissions of inquiry that have been appointed in the past. We recall that a similar Commission led by Dr Roger Chongwe was appointed to investigate circumstances around the 2017 police clash with rioters in Mongu which led to about 19 deaths under Mr Rupiah Banda’s regime. Its findings were handed over to the President at State House, but never made public. What’s the point in spending money on Commissions which don’t profit the electorate or the taxpayer?

The Zambian people deserve to know what the findings of this Commission are. This country does not have the luxury of continuing to waste money on useless undertakings that do not produce results. We want the Secretary to the Cabinet to explain why there is silence on this report, before we get closer to another major election.

We want to know how many people died in 2016 from political violence, who killed them and why they were not arrested. We want to know why the Electoral Commission of Zambia was announcing contradictory election results. Will this information be given to the public? We doubt!

We strongly suspect that the findings of this Commission will never see the light of day because if the investigators did an honest job, then the details definitely implicate the ruling party. If there are any plans to make this report public in future, then this silence means only one thing; the authorities are busy massaging the report; adding salt, onion natu Onga in order to subdue the chili that it has.

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