GEARS Initiative Zambia says the violence that occurred on 6th October, 2019 in Kaoma District which left one person dead and several injured was uncalled for and unnecessary.
And the Organisation says the arrest of United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia Leader Charles Chanda though on electoral unrelated matters, at the height of the campaigns could have a tow on his party’s poor showing in Kaoma.
Organisation Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi said the continued violence during by-elections is a clear sign of lack of reasoning capacities of political players leading to intolerance.
Mr Chipenzi said after a careful analysis of the by-elections, GEARS Initiative’s observation is that playing field in these local by-elections wasn’t leveled.
He said other than violence, the by-elections in Kaoma, Mwinilung’a and Kabompo were characterized by all sorts of malpractices such as abuse of state resources by the party in power and selective application of the law.
Mr Chipenzi said Joint agreed Campaign schedules were threatened by the wanton behaviour of the executive who could fly into the campaign and out of Kaoma at will even when it was not their day to do so, a potential act of provocation and violence during campaigns.
He said the Electoral Commission of Zambia despite its failure to have its Voter Education Facilitators reach out to each and every Polling Station in Kaoma District, for example, Maheba, its decision to proceed with the by-elections on 10th October, 2019 must be commended with sincerity.
However, Mr Chipenzi said the failure by those tasked to enforce the electoral Code of Conduct led to the ruling PF wantonly abusing state resources with senior civil servants such as Permanent Secretaries, some District Commissioners and some Provincial Medical Officers all visibly providing a helping hand to the ruling party to PF Kaoma campaign team.
Mr Chipenzi said his organization noticed high activities in the distribution of food stuffs, bicycles or their spares and the use of government vehicles whose number plates were removed in all the by-elections especially Kaoma.
In Mwinilunga’s Samuteba ward, Mr Chipenzi said relief food in 12.5 kg mealie-meal bags were ferried by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit to the ward for distribution despite the district being declared food secure.
He said it has become clear that DMMU has become an effective arm used in elections through food distribution by those in power to canvass electoral support.
“We also noted the uncensored use of blackmail language by government and ruling party officials such as no development for voting the ruling party’s opponents in a by-election. GEARS Initiative observed that opposition agents lacked food and campaign materials such as wrappers (chitenge) for their members which their opponents exploited to an extent where even the President could throw these wrappers to the people through the window”, he added.
Mr Chipenzi said the ECZ should provide guidance on whether or not the ruling party is now allowed to employ and deploy government officials and state utilities thereof as part of the ruling party electoral campaign resources base!
In Kaoma District, Mr Chipenzi said his Organisation saw more state officers involved in partisan politics openly canvassing electoral support for the ruling party through driving “unregistered” vehicles or removed number plates.
He said the Road Traffic and Safety Agency and the Road Traffic Section of Zambia Police Service should explain to the nation how and why it has been allowing unregistered vehicles to flood by-elections areas without them taking action.
He said from the just-ended local government by-elections and those before the country, it seems clear that RTSA and Road Traffic section of Zambia Police Service are now an accomplice to encouraging electoral malpractices in the electoral process by tolerating use of unregistered vehicles just like what has become of DMMU with relief food.
“Sadly, we also observed the ugly face of violence with the UPND supporters damaging windscreens of two vehicles of some PF supporters and also the windows of the PF District Office which was unnecessary and uncivil”, he said
And Mr Chipenzi said some parties did not deploy their party agents in some polling stations such as Mangango’s Chilombo, Maheba and Kashinzi remained unmanned by some political parties and those deployed were never looked after well by their respective parties in terms of logistics such as food, water, transport which is a recipe for maimed and vulnerable observation.
He has since demanded explanation and position from the ECZ on the alleged Ballot Boxes with ballot papers found at the collation centre during tallying process which almost disrupted the process in Kaoma.
“If true the ballot boxes were not part of the ordinary ones as alleged by the opposition, our question is who wanted to sneak them into the collation centre and what did the Commission do to the people involved? Such scenarios if went unexplained has potential to dent the commission’s reputation and the integrity of an election process”, he added
Mr Chipenzi said as long as the code of conduct remains a redundant electoral law and regulation, Zambia should not expect any integrity in the electoral process.
He said the country’s electoral process shall remain a highly contested arena years to come.