Former Zambian Vice President Brigadier General Godfrey Miyanda has challenged the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to indicate which specific law they relied on to cancel the UPND rally that was scheduled to take place in Kitwe on 14th May, 2016.
In a statement released to Lusaka Times, Brig Gen Miyanda said that he believed that there was no such law under the public order Act, adding that if such a law existed, it would be unconstitutional.
Below is the full statement.
STATEMENT THE CASE OF THE CANCELLATION OF THE UPND MANIFESTO LAUNCH
[By Brig Gen Godfrey Miyanda – 9th May 2016]
The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) ordered the Zambia Police to cancel a UPND campaign rally scheduled for 14th May 2016 in Kitwe, based on the ground that the ECZ had NOT announced the period for commencing campaigning. The PF had scheduled their campaign rally in Lusaka on the same date. I am not a member of the UPND but I strongly condemn this selective and undemocratic Government action. The ECZ first let the PF postpone their rally on their own volition and only then did they order the Police to cancel the UPND rally. The point of my statement is to challenge the Government, ECZ and the Police to indicate which specific law they have relied on to cancel the UPND rally based on the ground given. I believe that there is no such law, not even under the Public Order Act; but if there is, then that law or regulation is unconstitutional.
The Constitution of Zambia guarantees all citizens the Right to Freedom of Expression, which provides for the right to disseminate or communicate information to the general public and to any individual or class of people without interference. The same Constitution guarantees citizens the right to assemble and associate freely with other persons of their choice without interference as well as to form and/or belong to political parties or trade unions in order to protect their interests. This is the Supreme Law of the land that has been ignored by the Government of President Lungu, using the ECZ and the Police.
The ground given by the ECZ, namely that there should be no campaigns until the ECZ says so, does not fall within the ambit of the constitutional derogations covered by the two articles. Hence I challenge the government and its agents to indicate which other laws allow the ECZ to veto any campaign meetings. It is ridiculous and rather unreasonable to suggest that political parties must wait for five years or bye–elections before they begin to promote their organisations.
It is well established that political parties more often than not use public gatherings (or rallies as they are called) to communicate messages to the public. It is particularly important in the case of Zambia where those in power completely monopolise the public media, both print and electronic. Mass meetings are vital in a democratic system of governance because each party attempts to convince the public as to why they should be voted for. Campaigning must go on all the time without interference, of course subject to a party’s financial muscle.
That is why the President and his ministers have been on permanent tours to all provinces since the last presidential bye-election because they cunningly use government facilities to conduct their rallies. They plan visits to districts ostensibly to inspect projects while holding rallies alongside; of this there is a lot of evidence. Although these visits may be viewed as a benefit arising from incumbency, the practice is abused by those in power due to the unusually high number of inspection tours on weekly and sometimes even on a daily basis. Included in the tours are courtesy calls on our impecunious and vulnerable chiefs and churches. The messages are almost entirely campaign messages, featuring the oft repeated one-sided song of peace and unity!
I reiterate that the ECZ has no power to prevent parties from campaigning until it says so; this contravenes the Constitution. I believe that the cancelling of the UPND rally was a deliberate stratagem by President Lungu’s team to outwit the UPND. After notifying the Police a month before, why did the Government sabotage the rally? What are they afraid of? What has made the ECZ, which has hitherto created a work style that brought harmony and cooperation of political parties, to brazenly countermand the Supreme Law of the land? Which law provides that “ECZ will fire the starting pistol for campaigns to begin?” If there is such a law why has ECZ allowed the ruling party to be gallivanting all over Zambia since last year, bearing all sorts of gifts including actual cash to chiefs as well as ordinary villagers, without any feeling of guilt or shame? This ECZ action could easily be termed as another form of rigging because the ruling party clearly wants only its voice to be heard. I call upon President Lungu to stop these dangerous hide and seek games, otherwise we shall be justified to conclude that his messages about peace and unity are but a public relations and vote-catching escapade. Please stop these provocative actions forthwith!
[9TH MAY 2016]