Socialist Party first vice-president and general secretary Cosmas Musheke Musumali has said there is political interference in the operation of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
Dr. Musumali said the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) was working within the “political wheels of power” when it ruled that Bowman Lusambo and Joseph Malanji could not contest elections in Kabushi and Kwacha.
ECZ last month rejected the nomination from Mr. Malanji and Mr. Lusambo on account that they disqualified from contesting their former seats after nullification of the Kwacha and Kabushi seat respectively.
But the Constitutional Court this week ruled that Bowman Lusambo and Joseph Malanji are eligible to re-contest the Kabushi and Kwacha parliamentary by elections respectively.
Mr. Lusambo and Mr. Malanji had challenged in court the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s decision to reject their nomination to re-contest the Kabushi and Kwacha seat respectively.
Speaking on HOT FM’s Hot Seat radio programme following a ruling by the Constitutional Court that overturned the decisions, Dr Musumali accused the government of political interference in the electoral process.
Lusambo and Malanji are now free to contest the seats.
He said political interference is killing ECZ.
“ECZ rushed to make a decision and it’s a tricky situation that we find ourselves in. What is the ECZ going to do now? The ConCourt is saying, the situation as it stands, there was no fairness in it. So what is going to be the response of the ECZ?” Dr Musumali asked.
“What is killing the ECZ is the political interference and we suspect, in these hurriedly made decisions, a tragic decision that was made . . . they were working under political interference.”
Dr Musumali said the ECZ decision was obviously rushed and made on flimsy grounds, citing the “grade 12 certificate” argument against Malanji as a case in point.
“The issue (for Malanji’s case) was not the grade 12 certificate, but that is the one that was brought up. And it was brought up in a way that it even caught his lawyers by surprise. If that was the issue, Malanji would have been given time to bring the certificate and show it to the court.”
He accused the UPND government of taking revenge against the ECZ for the way it had been treated in the past.
“The UPND suffered a lot due to some of the decisions made by the ECZ, but you don’t take revenge. You don’t come to power with anger. That anger, because you don’t like the people at the ECZ or as an institution, there was a need to start a dialogue, to start getting the people at the ECZ to work a certain way. Political interference makes professionalism impossible, and that is what we are seeing in the ECZ.
“We shouldn’t throw away the ECZ, because we need it, but what we need is to improve the professionalism. What is killing the ECZ is political interference.”
Dr Musumali said the decisions over Lusambo and Malanji would have been different if the Commission was professional.
“We have always as the Socialist Party raised issues against some of the decisions of the ECZ. The ECZ is an important institution in our democratic process and we want it to function in a professional way. In the past, we have made our reservations known. What was going wrong with the ECZ. But the ECZ has been an institution that we have had a dialogue with, we have supported some of its decisions,” he said.
Dr Musumali said the Socialist Party supported efforts to modernise the ECZ, although he noted that it had been at “half capacity” recently.
“When you talk about the digitisation of voting and electoral voting, we are behind it. The idea of getting people in prisons to go and vote, we supported that. The thinking that even Zambians in the diaspora can actually vote in 2026, we are for that, we are behind it. So there are some new innovations of the ECZ that we support.”
Dr. Musumali said ECZ was operating at half capacity after the departure of key personal.
He said due to chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano leaving and chairperson Esau Chulu’s contract not being renewed, the ECZ was now functioning at half capacity.
Four candidates filed their nomination in the Kabushi election while five candidates managed to file their nomination in Kwacha Constituency last month.
ECZ has set 15th September, 2022 as the date for the two parliamentary by elections.
Dr. Musumali echoed the comment made by his President Fred M’membe hours after the Constitutional Court ruling.
Dr. M’membe welcomed the Constitution Court ruling that has declared Bowman Lusambo and Joseph Malanji eligible to re-contest the Kabushi and Kwacha parliamentary by elections respectively.
Dr M’membe said the Constitutional Court has redeemed itself after wrongfully nullifying the Kwacha and Kabushi parliamentary seats.
He vowed that the Socialist Party will do everything possible to ensure that Mr Malanji and Mr Lusambo win back the seats that were unjustly and unfairly taken away from them..
But electoral expert McDonald Chipenzi said the Constitutional Court judgement is not convincing but must be respected as it helps in the legal reform agenda of the electoral process.
Mr. Chipenzi said the idea of nullification of an election is to fight electoral corruption and punish offenders by not allowing them stand again the life of that parliament or council.