The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has called for mutual respect on the roles and mandate of both the Republican President and the Electoral Commission of Zambia as well as political parties and other electoral some in an election.
Commenting on the forthcoming Chilubi parliamentary and ward by-elections Western and Southern province SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe said there is need for tolerance among stakeholders to allow all institutions play their roles in ensuring that elections are held in a suitable environment for voters to vote for their preferred candidate.
Mr. Cheembe said different stakeholders play different roles in a democracy and that it is only by allowing all those involved in the process to play their specific roles that a free and fair election is guaranteed.
“A representative democracy such as Zambia requires political parties, whether ruling or opposition, to make it possible for the electorate to cast a vote for a party and candidate of their choice. The Police exist to guide and ensure that peace and security prevail for all those participating in an election and make it possible for all to peacefully participate. The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) exist to preside over the peaceful conduct of any election as per the laid down constitutional mandate.
“The country at any given time has a President who presides over its affairs as per the constitution of the land. All these stakeholders, and many others, exist to play a role in any given peaceful, credible, free and fair election. However, all these stakeholders can only play their role in a respectful and peaceful manner depending on the extent to which tolerance and the willingness to co-exist prevails.
“Opposition political parties have to respect the role of the Zambia Police Service, the ECZ, and the Republican President who becomes a stakeholder during an electoral process. Similarly, the ZPS has to respect opposition political parties, the ECZ, and the President. The same can be said for all stakeholders as this is the only way that harmony and unity is guaranteed in the electoral process and ultimately ensure that peace is the order of the day. This is a strong foundation for building a strong consolidated democratic dispensation,” he said.
Mr Cheembe said the happenings over the weekend in Chilubi was a clear indication that the principals of democracy have been compromised due to intolerance and lack of respect for individuals roles played by stakeholders.
“When intolerance and lack of respect among political players and electoral stakeholders take precedence over mutual respect and co-operation on account of everyone wanting to exhibit their power, the result is the happening in Chilubi experienced over the weekend where opposition political leaders were requested to leave. The ejection as evidenced by the reported videos on news led to harsh exchanges and ill feelings between the ZPS and opposition political parties which is unfortunate and regrettable. Effective and timely communication from the duty-bearers to the rights-holders is helpful in addressing the perception of unfairness among the electoral stakeholders.
“SACCORD would, therefore, want to call for mutual respect and co-operation among political stakeholders and move away from what appears to be an antagonistic engagement among some electoral stakeholders. The current approach will only continue to contribute to a tense and unease political environment where everyone will seek to lose out as all players in an electoral process have different levels of power that they can exhibit at the detriment of other stakeholders,” he said.
Mr. Cheembe has since appealed to stakeholders to have a “circle process meeting” to address the differences.
“We appeal to opposition political parties, the ECZ and the ZPS to have a circle process meeting where differences in the understanding of one another can be addressed. This gathering will assist the stakeholders have a humanization process that is key in creating a conducive environment for the remainder of the campaigns in the Chilubi by-election and future elections. We make this appeal as a way out of the gridlock where opposition political parties will cry foul over the unfairness of their treatment and the ZPS defend their actions based on providing and maintaining security,” he said.