Source: The Post / The Dawn News / August 1, 2016.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia has made the Patriotic Front and UPND sign a mediation agreement that deters the two political parties from using state resources in their campaigns for next week’s general elections.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia, in a statement released last Wednesday, stated that the agreement was signed following a complaint by the UPND over the use of Zambia Air Force resources by the Patriotic Front.
What type of agreement is this? Is the UPND in a position to use state resources in its campaigns?
This agreement would not even have been there if the Electoral Commission of Zambia was doing its work in a just, fair and impartial manner. There is only one party to these elections that is capable of abusing state resources for its election campaigns. And that is the ruling Patriotic Front. No other political party is in a position to access and abuse the state resources. The Electoral Commission of Zambia knows very well that the Patriotic Front has been abusing state resources and has done nothing meaningful to stop that. The Zambia Air Force has been abused by the Patriotic Front to ferry its cadres and supporters, including musicians and singers participating in their election campaigns. This has been in full view of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. But they have said or done nothing.
This didn’t need to wait for an official complaint from the UPND. Equally, the Patriotic Front has been abusing the state-owned news media outlets – the Times of Zambia, the Zambia Daily Mail and ZNBC television and radio – for its own narrow partisan election campaigns. There have been many complaints about this. And this is something that the Electoral Commission of Zambia itself cannot fail to see. But again, it has done nothing. It is very clear that the Electoral Commission of Zambia is not, in any way, capable of dealing with the abuses or transgressions of the ruling Patriotic Front.
It is the same on the issue of political violence. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has many cases before it of violence initiated by known or identifiable Patriotic Front leaders or cadres but has done nothing about it. It is not a secret that the blame for the great majority of the cases of violence lie squarely with the Patriotic Front. But there has been an attempt to try and apportion blame equally. If it was the UPND that was in the position of the Patriotic Front in terms of perpetrating political violence, the Electoral Commission of Zambia would have done everything to make sure that they are barred from participating in these elections.
We are paying a terrible price for the lack of effective independence by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. We are aware that several serious issues are being ignored or played down by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. The fact that election violence, abuse of the state-owned media and other state institutions like the Zambia Air Force by the Patriotic Front, despite numerous complaints from the political players and members of the public, is a clear sign that the Electoral Commission of Zambia, in its current form and composition, is not capable of administering the country’s electoral processes in a manner that is fair, just and impartial and that can bring harmony and stability to the country.
It is also clear that the complaints of the key stakeholders and the public in general are not being taken seriously by the Electoral Commission of Zambia, they are not being listened to. There is absence of seriousness, honesty and integrity on the part of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. And one day, the country may pay a terrible price for the inefficiencies and deficiencies of the Electoral Commission of Zambia.
The decisions and actions of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, in many cases, amount to nothing but window-dressing, trying to apportion blame even to the victims. And this agreement has come too late and really amounts to nothing. The Patriotic Front has used enough government resources and facilities in its campaigns in full view of the Electoral Commission of Zambia to get where it wants. If the Electoral Commission of Zambia is allowed to continue conducting its affairs without impartiality, we are headed for disaster as a nation. If the Electoral Commission of Zambia is to win back confidence and respect of the people and to be regarded as an independent and necessary institution, it has to start acting up to different standards than the ones it has been following up to now.
Whatever may have been the morality behind its actions, there is no doubt about the imbecility of the Electoral Commission of Zambia when it comes to the misdeeds and violations of the ruling Patriotic Front. There is not the slightest shadow of doubt that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has attempted to use methods which are destroying the objectives for which it was created. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has allowed and tolerated the misconduct and abuses of the Patriotic Front. But we all know that arbitrary behaviour by one person encouraged and permitted arbitrariness in others.
There are other complaints arising from the conduct of the Patriotic Front that the Electoral Commission of Zambia is not following at all.
There have been complaints about the intentions of the Patriotic Front to use the Ministry of Local Government staff participating in the electoral process to its advantage. And this is welldocumented in a recording of local government minister Stephen Kampyongo and his permanent secretary Amos Malupenga. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has said or done nothing about it. Yet they admit the huge role played by the Ministry of Local Government and other state and government agencies under the control of the Patriotic Front in our electoral process.
The partisan behaviour of the current command of the Zambia Air Force is public. But the Zambia Air Force plays a huge role in our electoral process. They transport ballot papers in many areas of our country that are difficult to access using automobiles.
What will stop the Zambia Air Force from manipulating the process in favour of the ruling Patriotic Front? Is this a state agency that should be trusted by the opposition to play a role in the electoral process?
Unless we face these facts as a nation, we shall pay the price that must be paid by those who try to ignore the realities before them. We shouldn’t encourage this type of narrow-mindedness, for no nation can be great whose key state institutions and government agencies are run by people who are so narrow in thought or in action.
In the light of all these things, we make a special appeal to the Electoral Commission of Zambia to realise that they have a very serious responsibility. As facilitators of the elections, they should ensure that the conditions for peaceful, free and fair elections are established and that the concerns of all key players are adequately addressed, and not just posturing around pretending to be what they are not.
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