The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has condemned the selective application of the Public Order Act (POA) by the Zambia Police and has demanded impartial and non-partisan implementation of the act.
The application of the Public Order Act has in the last two and half years of the Patriotic Front (PF) rule become a serious source of concern among citizens and other stakeholders.
ECZ chairperson Irene Mambilima has observed that the Public Order Act was being applied selectively and that the Commission had received numerous complaints from political parties on the way the police have been applying the act.
Justice Mambilima said it was important for the Act to be applied fairly and in accordance with its provisions noting that there had been a trend where the Act was being abused by those who had been mandated to implement the law.
She said the Commission had been asking that it should be given the mandate to prosecute electoral offenders because some notorious politicians had been breaching electoral regulations with impunity.
Speaking at a media luncheon at Mulungushi International Conference Center yesterday, Justice Mambilima said the Commission’s greatest nightmare was politicians who were frustrating the Commission’s mandate in more ways than just one.
“The Public Order Act must be applied fairly and it should not be selective. We have had cases where political parties had been denied their right to hold rallies in Lusaka even when there is no pending by-election. When political parties are denied the right to assemble, the Commission cannot do anything and we think that, that would be addressed by the Human Rights Commission. We have had notorious candidates who would just want to break the law and some of the actions like violence are criminal in nature and we have been lamenting that we be given teeth to bite to curb such impunity but right now there is nothing we can do,” Justice Mambilima said.
Justice Mambilima condemned the violence that rocked the Livingstone by-election where a PF cadre was murdered stating that the Commission was happy that suspects were in court.
She has called on politicians both in the ruling party and the opposition to preach peace during by-elections because violence was creating apathy among the voters.
She revealed that violence in by-elections was mainly being perpetrated by the cadres who were often imported from other towns and constituencies and appealed to the political parties to stop the tendency of hiring cadres form other towns.
Meanwhile, the Commission has said it will continue printing ballot papers from outside Zambia because of the security features the institution wanted to protect.
Justice Mambilima said there was no printing company in the country that would print ballot papers adding until Government Printers was recapitalized, the printing of the ballot papers would continue being done by foreign companies.
She said the Commission was ready to have the ballots printed locally but that there was no Zambian company that would be able to carry out the sensitive exercise.