Political stakeholders have expressed divergent views on the resignation and withdrawal from the parliamentarian By-Election in Kabushi Constituency by an independent candidate Alfred Yombwe citing malpractices by some contending candidates.
In his letter of withdraw and resignation to participate in the Kabushi By-Elections, Mr Yombwe cited that his resignation and withdraw from the By-election is in pursuant to Article 52 (6) of the Constitution of Zambia, adding that some competing candidates have been engaging in unfair practices such as distribution of money to the electorates as seen some in videos and beating up of people by the United Party for National Development (UPND).
But McDonald Chipenzi who is the GEARS Initiative Zambia Executive Director stated that self-withdrawal by an independent candidate cannot cause cancellation of an election and call for fresh nominations.
Mr Chipenzi noted that social media is awash with a letter of resignation (not knowing from what) and withdrawal (perhaps from the parliamentary race) allegedly issued by one independent candidate for Kabushi quoting malpractices by some rival candidates, a right has been exercised but if the aim is desperately to induce the cancellation of the By-elections and call for fresh nominations to accommodate the embattled duo, it is unfortunate but too late.
Mr Chipenzi cited that in accordance with Article 52(6) of the republican Constitution, a cancellation of nomination is through resignation, death and or disqualification of a duly nominated candidate.
“But resignation from what? It is from a party and not from independent because one goes nowhere,” he cited
Mr Chipenzi explained that nominations to contest an election is done in accordance with Article 52(1) of the Constitution and Section 31 of the Electoral Act, the Electoral Process Act No 35 of 2016 Section 31(1) states that a withdrawal of one’s candidature after the nomination period has expired is contrary to provision of section 31(2) and is null and void. Section 31(1) is illustrative and guides that a duly nominated candidate cannot withdraw from the race after the expiry of the nomination period.
Mr Chipenzi further explained that, the Article guides that a duly nominated candidates at parliamentary level thus, a nomination submitted under subsection (1) may be withdrawn at any time, before the expiry of the period appointed for lodging nomination papers in respect of the constituency concerned, if the candidate delivers to the returning officer a written notice to that effect.
Therefore, from the provision cited above, the Electoral Commission of Zambia has power to accept withdrawals from candidates done or delivered within the period for lodgment of nominations, but the Commission has no legal powers and mandate to entertain and accept any withdrawal done or delivered outside the timeframe for nominations.
“To this end and in my view, Alfred Yombwe remains the validly and duly nominated independent candidate for Kabushi parliamentary Constituency seat and his letter of resignation and withdrawal is null and void,” he stated
Mr Chipenzi mentioned that, it goes without argument that the cancellation of the By-election by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the call for fresh nominations could be illegal, unexpected and farfetched.
And a Business and Political Analyst Francis Chipili noted that there’s a law of precedence at play in kabushi, because, In the August 2021 General Elections, an independent candidate Charity Lumpa withdrew her candidature for Lusaka Central constituency, and as mandated by law, the Electoral Commission of Zambia was compelled to conduct fresh nomination filing.
“Thus, it must be noted that court rulings become part of the law governing in society,” Mr Chipili said
And Economic and Equity Party (EEP) President Chilufya Tayali expressed contentment over the withdrawal of Mr Yombwe from taking part in the forthcoming Kabushi By-elections.
Mr Tayali explained that Mr Yombwe in his resignation evoked Article 52 (6) of the Constitution of Zambia and not the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 Section 31 (2).
The Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 Section 31 (2) empowers the Electoral Commission of Zambia to reject a withdraw and proceed with the election, but where a candidate withdraws and sorts to involve the provision of Article 52 (6) of the Constitution of Zambia, the Law requires for cancellation of the Elections and call for fresh nominations from eligible candidates.
Mr Tayali added that his praying that more candidates will withdraw from taking part in the By-elections so that they will not be held.
“Even in Luangwa there are issues though not as bad as in Kabushi and Kwacha,” Mr Tayali said
Mr Tayali cited that it is imperative that this By-election is somehow disturbed so that they can start afresh.
“There will be no election in Kabushi, I know the UPND using their dictatorship, they are trying to push ECZ so that they don’t abide by Article 52 (6) so that the Commission doesn’t call for fresh nomination,” Mr Tayali said
“I know President Hichilema together with his people are busy scheming on how they can avoid having fresh nominations,” Mr Tayali added
Mr Tayali has since called on Opposition Political Parties to take a stance by withdrawing from taking part in the forthcoming By-elections as this will pave the way for fresh nominations.
Meanwhile, the Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) President Sean Tembo noted with dismay the continued harassment of opposition candidates by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in the Kwacha and Kabushi Parliament By-election, with Mr Shadreck Mumba of United Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ) party being the latest to be summoned by ACC for no clear reasons, barely three days before the day of the polls.
Mr Tembo added that it must be noted that an election period is a very delicate period for voters, and the summoning of a candidate by law enforcement agencies has the potential to create a misconception that such a candidate is a criminal, in the eyes of the electorate, and potentially adversely affect the performance of the candidate during polls.
“If any of the Candidates in the Kwacha and Kabushi Parliamentary by-elections are suspected of committing an offence, why can’t the ACC wait until after the by-elections before summoning them, in the interest of fairness, transparency and equity,” Mr Tembo stated
He mentioned that, it is evident that the continued harassment of candidates amounts to a weaponization of law enforcement agencies by President Hakainde Hichilema, so as to achieve an unfair advantage over the opposition in the upcoming by-elections. Therefore, the outcome of the By-elections is unlikely to reflect the free will of the people of Kwacha and Kabushi.
Mr Tembo has bemoaned civil society organizations such as the church and traditional leaders for being silent in the face of various atrocities which the New Dawn administration is perpetrating against democracy, institutions of democracy and players in the democratic space. Civil society organizations should wake up from their slumber and contribute to the provision of checks and balances with the same vigor and tenacity with which they did under the previous regime, otherwise they risk being perceived as an arm and extension of the ruling party.
Mr Tembo has since advised President Hakainde Hichilema to cease and desist from undermining our democracy through the weaponization of law enforcement agencies against the opposition. As a matter of fact, law enforcement agencies have greater potential to damage our democracy when they are used to harass the opposition, than political cadres.
“Therefore, you cannot reduce harassment by political cadres but replace it with harassment by the Police and claim that you have made progress, Zambia and the Zambian people deserve a properly functioning democracy and not a facade of a properly functioning democracy,” Mr Tembo said