By Sakwiba Sikota
The Livingstone 2006 Effect
Last week the Electoral Commission of Zambia put out the following statement,
“GUIDANCE ON INDEPENDENT CANDIDATES: The Electoral Commission of Zambia wishes to remind all independent candidates for the forthcoming General Election that independent candidates should not be affiliated to any political party. In line with the legal requirements, all independent candidates should have relinquished political party membership “at least two months immediately before the date of the election.”
To this end, independent candidates should desist from using campaign materials for political parties or in any way identify themselves with any political party. The Commission will not hesitate to take appropriate action including disqualification of erring candidates.”
This statement by the electoral commission took me by surprise. I was thinking to myself that the Constitution of Zambia allows each Zambian inalienable rights under the following Articles:- Article 20 Freedom of Expression which states,
“(1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to impart and communicate ideas and information without interference, whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons, and freedom from interference with his correspondence.”
Article 21 Freedom of Assembly and Association adds,
“(1) Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of assembly and association, that is to say, his right to assemble freely and associate with other persons and in particular to form or belong to any political party, trade union or other association for the protection of his interests.”
The protections given under these articles cannot be diluted by other provisions of the Constitution or acts of parliament as they are entrenched rights. If ECZ is to bar any of the independents, who have relinquished party membership, for encouraging their supporters to show their liking of a political party’s presidential candidate, they may find themselves sued.
In 2006 I stood for elections in the Livingstone parliamentary race under the United Liberal Party. We did not have a presidential candidate. As I went about campaigning I came across some of the electors who were donned either in MMD, PF or UPND attire who wanted to hear my manifesto for the Livingstone seat and expressed their support for me.
During that election campaign, I would tell them to vote ULP in the Parliamentary and also the council elections. When asked as to whom I supported for the Presidential poll, I urged the electorate to vote for Michael Sata. This did not mean that I had crossed over to the PF or become affiliated to them. I would be on the same campaign platforms as Sata who would be clad in PF regalia whilst I was always in ULP campaign material.
Even when I was campaigning on my own in Livingstone without Sata, a large number of people on my campaign platform stage would be in PF campaign material.
I enjoyed my rights under Articles 20 and 21 of our Constitution. This helped the people of Livingstone to make a studious choice as to whom to choose to represent them at different political levels.
The people of Livingstone, who are clearly very sophisticated, produced election results that showed that they were not looking at the party of the candidate but at what message the individual candidate had. I say this because in 2006 the Livingstone electorate in the presidential poll chose UPND/UDA, at parliamentary they chose ULP, and the party which won the majority of Council seats in the Livingstone district was the MMD. The same electorate gave three different parties a win at different levels!
In 2008 and 2011 my support went to Rupiah Banda (RB) for President. I was on the same campaign platform as RB all around the country. He would wear the MMD attire and I would adorn myself in the ULP campaign regalia. No one, including the Electoral Commission of Zambia, suggested in 2008 that I had crossed the floor and should lose my seat.
It, therefore, surprises me that ECZ should stop independent candidates from indicating to their supporters whom to vote for at the Presidential and local government level. An independent will definitely have followers who will value his or her opinion on which party to support at the other levels. Under Articles 20 and 21 of the constitution, they have the right to participate and have an effect on the election.
What is so wrong with an independent candidate being so popular that they create the “Livingstone 2006 effect”?