If a policeman sees a thief breaking into a house of an unsuspecting owner, but says ‘I cannot arrest the robber until the owner of the house report to me officially’, then that officer is either crazy or an accomplice to the burglary.
Unfortunately, ridiculous as that scenario sounds, it is the exact stance that our Electoral Commission has taken regarding the reported electoral malpractice in Chilubi.
The Electoral Commission Zambia (ECZ) recently said the matter of the alleged bribery cases in Chilubi ahead of next month’s by-election had not been reported by any of the participating political parties, and therefore, the Commission could not probe the allegation or punish the culprit.
We find such a statement to be absurd because as organizers of elections, ECZ has the responsibility to police the entire electoral process, making sure that political parties are operating within the confines of the law. It is our position that the electoral commission should be observant to any practice which stands in breach of the electoral code of conduct.
We are worried with such sentiments coming from the Elections House because if ECZ continues on this path, then the 2021 elections will be in chaos. We can as well be assured that the ECZ is destined to produce another disputed election.
We say this because it does not help for ECZ to sit around waiting for people to lodge official complaints on malpractice which they can see with their naked eyes. In our view, you don’t solve problems by being reactive, you have to be proactive. It’s as simple as that.
Now, this a very serious issue which the country needs to discuss. Elections in Zambia have usually been a disputed affair with allegations of rigging, vote-buying and other malpractices always coming up.
Looking at the violence that occurred during the 2016 elections and its aftermath, we thought ECZ would work towards insuring more discipline and transparency in the electoral processes so that at the end of the day when winners are announced, the losers do not accuse the commission of favoring preferred candidates.
We are shocked that the commission seems to have no such agenda. In fact, for some reason ECZ is doing the best it can to make sure that some stakeholders fail to take part in observation of the printing process for ballot papers.
ECZ has chosen to print the ballot papers to be used in the 2021 general elections from Dubai, while declaring that they will not sponsor anyone to observe the printing process.
We find this development quite disturbing because if ECZ is working with a tight budget, they could have printed the ballot papers closer to home where it would be easier to sponsor observers.
We argue that if they decided to print from South Africa for example, they would make it easier for opposition political parties to sponsor themselves. But with the expensive nature of Dubai, how many political parties can afford to send observers for whatever period it will take to finish printing all the needed elections material?
Now, we recall that President Lungu made an impromptu visit to Dubai and apart from him saying there will be investments from that country which we are yet to see, it is not clear what that visit was about and so we are left to speculate because we do not think it is a coincidence that the President visited Dubai and now ECZ is adamant that they are printing the ballot papers from there, without consulting stakeholders.
We have noticed that the commission is so adamant on printing ballots from Dubai and determined not to sponsor observers, to the extent that the likes of ECZ acting chief executive officer Royd Katongo would even start making arrogant utterances like ‘sue us if you like’.
Surely, wherever this arrogance is coming from, ECZ must know that with such statements, they are telling the nation that they are not ready to be held accountable and as such. This directly means they cannot deliver free and fair elections.