THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) must not punish innocent political parties over the violence that has resulted in the unnecessary loss of life by banning campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala districts, says the Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD).
This is in a petition filed before the Constitutional Court by the FDD national secretary Nathan Mulonga and party spokesperson Antonio Mwanza.
The petitioners have argued that the directive to suspend campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala was “in contravention of section 60 (3) (b) as read together with section 110 (2) of the Constitution by punishing both the alleged perpetrators and the plaintiffs who are victims of violence.”
Therefore, the FDD has asked the courts to declare the directive to suspend campaigns as unconstitutional, null and void, and “a declaration that section 28 of the Electoral Process Act No 35 of 2016 does not empower the respondent to suspend campaigning, hence its decision is illegal.”
FDD was hopeful that the Constitutional Court would hear the matter quickly to help them recover in the campaign mood leading to the August polls.
The FDD have challenged the move by ECZ and the Attorney General to suspend political campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala for 10 days owing to escalating violence in the two districts.
In the affidavit, the party has accused ECZ of failing to take action against known perpetrators of the violence.
FDD has argued that the decision to suspend political campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala districts was in contravention of the Constitution (Amendment Act) No. 2 of 2016 and the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 as it infringes on the rights to disseminate information about their ideologies and economic plans for the people. The petitioners have said the move had disadvantaged FDD party presidential candidate Edith Nawakwi, and other party candidates at parliamentary and local government level especially that they have not been involved in the criminal acts of violence that have rocked the two towns.
On July 9, ECZ announced the suspension of public political campaigns after the death of a UPND cadre when the opposition party was involved in clashes with police following the cancellation of that party’s scheduled rally in Chawama compound in Lusaka.
The party said the reasons for the suspension of campaigns for all political parties was based on the rise in cases of violence that characterised the campaigns in Namwala and Lusaka, but that FDD were, in fact, victims and should not be treated as perpetrators of the vice.
“That by a press release dated 9th July 2016, the 1st respondent (ECZ) purportedly acting pursuant to section 28 the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 suspended campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala districts for a period of 10 days.
“That the 1st respondent has at no time acted against the perpetrators of violence and is fully aware that the petitioners are neither perpetrator nor do they participate in any violent acts,” the petition reads.
The FDD has explained that as a party, they have previously written to the commission over the brutal attacks on their candidate by UPND cadres who have since been arrested and were being prosecuted, but without action from ECZ.