FODEP condemns Government for blackmailing voters

FODEP Executive Director McDonald Chipenzie

FODEP Executive Director McDonald Chipenzie

The Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) has condemned the Zambian government for electoral blackmail and corruption.

In a press release to Zambian Eye, FODEP Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi stated that the report is a summary of the campaigns held ahead of the Katuba by-election.

“FODEP observed with concern the continued use of blackmail by the party in power during campaigns where promises of development are attached to voting for ruling party candidates. The PF used the platforms during campaigns to ask voters to vote for ruling party candidate for the sake of development in the area. Yet, they know that such actions breach the provisions of electoral laws. Government is not there for only people who vote for the ruling party but for all Zambians,” reads the statement.

Chipenzi further says, “Allegations and counter allegations of vote buying characterised the campaigns in Katuba. It seems the presence of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) did not yield many results. Despite these allegations, no one, at least to our knowledge, was summoned by the ACC for interrogations. Maybe, the Commission is still waiting until after the elections”.

In the same statement, Chipenzi commends the Police for fairly applying the Public Order Act.

Below is the full statement:

INTERIM SUMMARY REPORT ON KATUBA CONSTITUENCY BY – ELECTION CAMPAIGN ISSUES ISSUED ON 24TH FEBRUARY 2014 BY THE FOUNDATION FOR DEMORACTIC PROCESS (FODEP)

Having monitored the campaigns in Katuba constituency, the following are our observations:

Zambia Police Force

FODEP would like to commend the Police for fairly applying the Public Order Act during the Katuba by-election campaigns. Our observation showed that no political party was denied of holding any rally throughout the campaign period. The general peace observed and experienced in Katuba is a signal that those who were mandated to maintain law and order at public meetings and processions did so fairly.  Deployment of about 200 police officers in the area also could have had a contributory effect to the peace in the area.

However, FODEP was incensed by the Police’s summoning of Alliance for Better Zambia (ABZ) candidate Patricia Mwashingwele at the heat of campaigns over a case purportedly committed two years ago. This was unfortunate. The Police should have scrutinised Ms. Mwashingwele’s status before her nomination or wait until after the election. This act alone showed signs of political victimisation on Ms. Mwashingwele. We recommend that in future, serious scrutinisation of candidates should be done prior to nomination. Further, in as much as it is the role of the Police to enforce the law, the timing of the summons on Ms. Mwashingwele was wrong. The police need to be professional, ethical and able to read the times and this can be done by exercising patience on matters of this nature to avoid people misinterpreting their actions.

Political Parties

FODEP would like to commend political parties participating in Katuba by-election for exhibiting high levels of inter-party tolerance which consequently resulted in the general peace characterising the Katuba by-election campaigns. However, political party rallies were mostly devoid of messages targeted at addressing the needs and interest of the people of Katuba. Instead, political party Presidents focused more of their energies on attacking each other as if it was a Presidential race. PF, UPND and MMD were the most culprits on this issue.  We recommend that in future by-elections, political party leaders should focus their messages on addressing the needs of the given constituencies.

Electoral Blackmail and Corruption

FODEP observed with concern the continued use of blackmail by the party in power during campaigns where promises of development are attached to voting for ruling party candidates. The PF used the platforms during campaigns to ask voters to vote for ruling party candidate for the sake of development in the area. Yet, they know that such actions breach the provisions of electoral laws. Government is not there for only people who vote for the ruling party but for all Zambians.

Allegations and counter allegations of vote buying characterised the campaigns in Katuba. It seems the presence of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) did not yield many results. Despite these allegations, no one, at least to our knowledge, was summoned by the ACC for interrogations. Maybe, the Commission is still waiting until after the elections.

Candidate’s eligibility

The move by the ruling PF to adopt a non-Katuba registered candidate seemed to have caused a stir in the campaigns. Despite the constitution (Article 64) and electoral laws not barring any individual who so wishes to stand as a member of parliament to contest elections in any constituency of his/her choice whether registered in the area or not, opposition political parties and their leaders took turns to de-campaign the PF candidate on account of his originality and residence. We recommend that the electoral laws and the constitution be revisited to allow only registered persons in the constituencies they intend to stand to aspire to avoid detrimental sentiments against certain candidates who may not come from such constituencies. These sentiments are buttressed by the flaws in representation once one is elected to parliament hence local communities preferring local residents because of the perception that the candidate would be more accessible to the constituents. ECZ should also intensify its voter education campaign to enlighten the electorate on the requirements of citizens to contest Parliamentary elections to avoid certain capable candidates making wrong choices when choosing a constituency to contest elections in future.

Conclusion

FODEP would like to thank all stakeholders for maintaining peace in Katuba. Further, we wish to thank all participating candidates for making Katuba one of the most competitive by-elections in recently history the country.  Our appeal to all stakeholders is to continue maintaining peace and tolerance during and after the elections.  To the people of Katuba, FODEP’s appeal is for them to remain vigilant and decisive tomorrow and make their right choices based on qualities and capabilities of the candidates and not on the gifts they received during campaigns.

Signed by:

McDonald Chipenzi,

Executive Director