Vernon Mwaanga

HOLDING of free, fair and credible elections on August 12 is a must for Zambia, says Vernon Mwaanga.

The veteran politician said all the political parties taking part in the forthcoming elections must sign a zero tolerance agreement to political violence before, during and after the elections.

He said the eyes and ears of Africa and the world would be focused on Zambia, as over seven million citizens prepare to cast their votes in the tripartite elections on August 12.

Mwaanga said Zambia’s election history in the last few years, since the re-introduction of multiparty democracy, had been less than cheerful.

“It is important to recognise that elections are not an event. They are a process which starts with the issuance of National Registration Cards to young people who have become eligible to vote since the last elections in 2016. This then followed by the voter registration exercise; voter verification; adoption of candidates for local government and parliamentary candidates by political parties; filing of nominations; campaigns; voting; counting of votes at polling stations; counting of votes and announcement of polling station results, before they are submitted to the constituency returning officers for tallying before they are forwarded to the national tallying centre at the Electoral Commission of Zambia, who then go on to announce the results,” Mwaanga said.

He said whereas the counting of votes at polling stations was observed by party agents, international observers and local monitors, the tallying process at the constituency and national levels was not.

Mwaanga said this was a grey area, which needs to be rectified, because it had the potential for mischief.

“If you take the 2016 elections, presidential results were announced by the Electoral Commission and results declared, only to be corrected afterwards, because of critical errors in a number of constituencies like Lundazi – among others. This should not be allowed to happen again, because it grossly undermines public confidence in the entire electoral process. Election results must always reflect the genuine wishes of the people,” he said.

“What was also disconcerting in 2016, was the manner in which the presidential election petition was mishandled by the Constitutional Court (ConCourt). The Constitution of Zambia and electoral laws, provide for those aggrieved by the results of the election, to seek redress through court process. After a period of procrastination, the ConCourt advised the petitioners and their lawyers on a Friday evening that they would start hearing their petition on Monday morning.”

He said when the petitioners and their lawyers turned up on the Monday to present the substance of their petition, only to be told that the ConCourt had reversed its earlier decision by three judges to two, and decided that the petition could not be heard, because it was time-barred.

“The question is what happened during that weekend? Why did the three ConCourt judges change their minds in less than three days? I will resist the temptation to speculate,” he said.

Mwaanga said also talked about the methods being used by political parties to select their candidates for local government and parliamentary seats.

He said most political parties use narrow based primaries, which were substantially flawed, because they involve a few elected officials who have their own personal preferences versus what the voters want.

“In countries like the United States of America, where the primary system seems to work a lot better, all registered party members vote in primary elections for their preferred candidates. This eliminates the issue of personal preferences by a few party officials. Political parties do not always get this right,” Mwaanga noted. “The net result as we witnessed in Malawi and here in Zambia, was an unbelievable emergence of independent members of parliament. In Malawi, there were 56 independent members of parliament out of a total House of 193.”

He said to produce a free, fair, transparent and credible elections, which meet international standards, the campaign playing field must be level for all those participating.

“They must have the freedom to campaign freely everywhere in Zambia, without interference or intimidation from anyone. They must also have fair and equal access to the media and particularly the public media, which does not belong to any political party, but to the people of Zambia,” he said. “The amended public order Act, as amended in 1996, must be applied fairly and equally to all participating political parties. Both SADC and the African Union (AU), have provided adequate guidelines on this subject to their member states, through various protocols which have been endorsed by member states-including Zambia. All the political parties taking part in the forthcoming elections must sign a zero tolerance agreement, to political violence before, during and after the elections.”

Mwaanga said violence in whatever form or shape was intolerable and unacceptable.

He said it was an enemy of democracy, peace and stability.
“It should have no room in Zambia. Corrupt practices, such as bribing voters with money, is a prescription for conflict and instability, which Zambia does not need or deserve. I urge all responsible citizens to remain vigilantly alert and vote for candidates who will make a difference to their lives,” said Mwaanga.


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