STATEMENT BY SEVEN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS ON THE BY-ELECTIONS HELD AT FODEP HOUSE ON WEDNESDAY, 27TH FEBRUARY, 2013
Ladies and gentlemen
We welcome you to this briefing.
Let us all bow our heads and take a minute of silence in solemn memory of those precious lives which continue to be lost during elections. This is indeed regrettable and uncalled for. Our heartfelt condolences go to those who have lost their loved ones in these troubled times.
You all recall that on Monday this week, we briefed the nation on our views and feelings regarding the holding of free and fair elections in Mpongwe and Livingstone. We also condemned the unilateral banning of political party rallies by the police, a job which was not in its jurisdiction. We are gathered here again today to express our concerns and observations on the by-elections scheduled for tomorrow in the two constituencies. The ban was a direct violation of the Constitution of Zambia which guarantees the Zambian people their freedoms and rights to assembly and to holding political rallies. The learned lawyer who needed to display his competence with matters of the law including the protection of the Constitution has failed to discharge his responsibility. We have no option but to call on Dr. Solomon Jere’s immediate resignation as Deputy Inspector General of Police in order to restore public confidence in the law enforcement body. We also appeal to all political party leaders to counsel their party cadres to refrain from engaging themselves in acts of violence.
As Civil society organisations involved in the promotion of good democratic governance through holding peaceful elections, we are deeply saddened to note that the election in Livingstone and Mpongwe are being held at the expense of a loss of one vibrant and precious life. However, we are consoled that reason has prevailed and that calm has finally returned to the tourist capital, Livingstone after protests that ensued following the arrest of UPND Leaders Hakainde Hichilema and others. What saddens us most, however, is that none of the political parties exercised restraint and distanced themselves from provocation and political violence.
Both in Livingstone and Mpongwe, the electoral code of conduct was breached and the police remained akimbo when such things were happening. The police continue to be reactive in the face of electoral violence rather than being proactive. As result of their laisser-faire approach, Zambia has continued to lose lives during elections. Recent incidences include Rufunsa and now Livingstone. The police have failed to really exhibit professional conduct during the elections. In most cases they themselves act as agents of electoral violence as opposed to peacekeepers during such time. To hide their inefficiencies, the Police have in the past blamed political parties and advertently ban political party rallies and gatherings.
We would, at this point, like to express our heartfelt condolences to the Patriotic Front (PF) and the late Mr. Chanda’s family of Monze on his untimely death in Livingstone while involved in electoral campaigns for the Livingstone Central parliamentary by-election. The death of Mr. Chanda who was PF Monze District Chairperson is highly regrettable and unfortunate. The death is also coming at the time when the police command in Lusaka announced that an additional 300 police officers had been deployed to the area. The question is:
- what are those police officers doing in Livingstone if it is not to protect property and human life? Where were they when political party cadres where busy killing each other?
- How did the late PF District Chairperson for Monze and his friends find themselves near the UPND camp and what was the motive behind their going to the UPND camp?
- Why didn’t the Police man the buffer Zone between the two political party camps so as not to allow stray cadres into each other’s camps taking into accounts that police are aware of the endemic political intolerance among political parties?
Had the police been proactive, Mr. Chanda’s life would have been saved. We, therefore, expect the police to use their professional skills and to conduct thorough investigations in the murder of Mr. Chanda and bring the real culprits to account. We cannot accept the loss of life on account of elections. It is unacceptable and must be rejected by all patriotic Zambians. It is a foreign phenomenon which should not be allowed to grow its roots in our peaceful country. As civil society organisations, we have noted with concern that police have not been acting professionally whenever handling electoral related issues. There has been a tendency by police to act high handedly whenever dealing with opposition political parties while those in power tend to get away with anything. Further, the police have been using emotions and political directives to carry out their investigations rather than applying their professional acumen. As the police go on with their investigations, we ask them to exercise the greatest respect for human rights and resist the temptation of turning the Police Service into a unit similar to the Gestapo that was under the NAZI in Germany. The Gestapo methods cannot work in a country like Zambia and those in charge of the Police must go back to their history books and learn the consequences of the same methods Hitler employed.
The tendency by the police to follow political directives blindly and their failure to bring perpetrators of violence to account has led them to lose confidence in the eyes of the public. The nation is still remembers how dramatic the Rufunsa incident was and how police at the directive of political leadership, went on rampage arresting innocent people who were later released. To date the perpetrators of this violence are not yet known. . This is really a sad development in the democratic growth of our country. Since the Police have agreed to be used as tools to catch and persecute opponents of the party in power, they have rendered themselves irrelevant in the eyes of other stakeholders as they now feel that the institution is applying double standards and selective justice.
Civil society has noted the arrest of UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema with a sense of shock and we hope that the Judiciary will speed up cases that border on such arrests. We cannot allow a situation where these arrests are being effected each and every day as political leaders exercises their freedom of expression and other fundamental political rights. We therefore call upon the Zambian Government as custodians of the custodians of the Constitution and defenders of people’s rights to provide the necessary guidance in such matters. We also wish to call upon the Zambia’s Human Rights Commission (HRC), SADC, the AU, Commonwealth and other human rights defenders to come out strong and denounce the abuse of peoples human rights.
What is the way forward in tomorrow’s by-election especially in Livingstone? Section 28, the Electoral Act, No. 12 of provides for powers of ECZ to defer elections to another date if the atmosphere is not conducive to holding peaceful free and fair elections. There is no doubt that the by-elections in Mpongwe will not be peaceful, free and fair. We therefore call upon ECZ to immediately postpone the by-elections both in Livingstone and Mpongwe. Should this election go ahead, most voters will not turn up to vote for fear of harassment and it is not our desire to have MPs elected by a smaller numbers of the electorate.
Read on behalf of Seven CSO by: Andrew Ntewewe, President, Young African Leaders Initiative
Zambia Center for Inter-Party Dialogue (ZCID) …………………………………
Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) …………………………………..
Anti-Voter Apathy Project (AVAP) …………………………………..
Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) …………………………………..
Southern African center for Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD)………
Operation Young Vote (OYV) …………………………………