The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) has said the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should have invoked the Electoral Process Act and taken action against violence prior to last week’s by-elections to demonstrate its commitment to holding transparent and credible elections.
CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Bishop Andrew Mwenda said CCMG noted with great concern isolated incidents of violence mainly involving UPND and the PF the by-elections in Chama, Lusangazi, Mwense and Mkushi Districts.
Bishop Mwenda said ECZ’s decision to merely condemn acts of violence which characterised the last few days of the campaign period in Luangwa, Mkushi, Mwense and Chama Districts without taking action was vague.
He said the group was further dismayed by the lack of and slow action by Police to effect arrests on known perpetrators of violence prior to the by-elections.
Bishop Mwenda stated that CCMG further welcomes ECZ action to summon PF Chairman for Publicity Raphael Nakacinda to a meeting in connection with his allegations about pre-marked ballot papers.
He said the allegations were serious and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves.
“Pre-Election Assessment Despite the electoral environment being generally calm and peaceful, CCMG noted with great concern isolated incidents of violence mainly involving UPND and the PF. CCMG is dismayed by the lack of and slow action by Police to effect arrests on known perpetrators of violence. Furthermore, CCMG noted ECZ’s statement dated 3 November and released on 4 November 2022 in which the Commission condemned acts of violence which characterised the last few days of the campaign period in Luangwa, Mkushi, Mwense and Chama Districts. It is our considered view that the ECZ should have invoked the Electoral Process Act and taken appropriate action immediately to demonstrate the Commission’s commitment to holding transparent and credible elections. CCMG welcomes ECZ action to invite Mr. Raphael Nakachinda to a meeting in connection with his allegations about pre-marked ballot papers. It is our view that the matter is serious and must be treated with the seriousness it deserves. Furthermore, we will follow the matter with keen interest and expect the ECZ to share with the public the outcome of the said meeting,” Bishop Mwenda said.
He urged ECZ, the Police and other law enforcement agencies to proactively investigate matters relating to violations of the code of conduct and further sanction those involved.
“CCMG will continue to engage with key stakeholders, including the ECZ, the Zambia Police, political parties, media and CSOs, to share its findings and key recommendations below: Electoral Commission of Zambia. Code of Conduct Violations: Violence and Insulting Language: CCMG noted acts of violence involving UPND and PF supporters with UPND supporters and party members being the perpetrators. CCMG calls on ECZ, the Police and other law enforcement agencies to proactively investigate matters relating to violations of the code of conduct and further sanction those involved. Distribution of Money and Goods: CCMG documented acts of voter inducement involving distribution of chitenge material, money and food items on 4 November 2022 by UPND cadres and PF party members. CCMG calls on the UPND, PF and other political parties and candidates to refrain from acts of voter inducement as is provided for by law,” Bishop Mwenda said.
Bishop Mwenda added that CCMG documented a number of incidents involving inducement of voters and urged the UPND and the PF as the main perpetrators to desist from such acts as they are a serious violation of the electoral code of conduct.
“While we commend the ECZ for sharing a detailed and well timed campaign schedule, we noted with concern that campaign schedules were not adhered to by political parties, hence the clashes between PF and UPND during rallies. We therefore call on political parties/candidates to ensure strict adherence to campaign schedules, and on the ECZ to ensure strict enforcement of the same. CCMG noted with concern the continued different understanding of access requirements for monitors/observers by polling officials. According to the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 and as amended in 2019, ECZ issues accreditation to monitors/observers and party agents, and it is this accreditation that grants monitors/observers access to polling stations. In three (3) polling stations; Chibondo Primary School-01, Chimbili Farm-01 and Isubilo Oil Palms-01, CCMG monitors were initially denied access to polling stations despite being duly accredited and in possession of valid accreditation cards. In all instances, ECZ poll staff either demanded stamped letters from Mwense Council or an oath of affirmation, neither of which are required. This is a persistent issue across multiple elections that ECZ has yet to address; therefore, CCMG urges the ECZ to quickly and seriously address the continued demands of some of its polling officials that fall outside the law.”
“Candidate Nomination and Participation of Women, Youth and PWDs: CCMG noted adherence to nomination procedures by both ECZ and aspiring candidates in Mwense Districts. CCMG calls on political parties to take deliberate steps towards adopting women, youth and PWDs in future elections in order to enhance their participation in politics. Inducement of Voters: Having documented a number of incidents involving inducement of voters, CCMG calls on the UPND and the PF as the main perpetrators to desist from such acts as they are a serious violation of the electoral code of conduct. CCMG also documented use of military attire, and ferrying of youths from Lusaka to Mwense district by the UPND. CCMG therefore recommends that political parties refrain from ferrying youths from areas outside the locations of elections, and the use of military-like attire. CCMG also notes that the Public Order Act under Section 3(1) prohibits the use of uniforms and flags in connection with political objects,” Bishop Mwenda said.
Bishop Mwenda concluded:” CCMG calls on the Zambia Police, Anti-Corruption Commission, and other relevant law enforcement agencies to thoroughly investigate all reports of violence, intimidation and vote buying and arrest perpetrators irrespective of their political affiliation. CCMG commends the voters who exercised their democratic rights in the 4 November by-elections. Finally, we thank our 13 LTOs who worked tirelessly to document events leading up to the poll and the 104 election day monitors who deployed to their polling stations at 05:30 and remained there until announcement of results.”