THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has warned presidential candidates not to compel the commission to disqualify political parties whose supporters are perpetrating violence.
And four political parties including then UPND yesterday refused to sign the ECZ peace treaty to end the political violence that has characterised the campaigns for the coming general elections.
ECZ chairperson Justice Esau Chulu told presidential candidates yesterday that much as the commission had been given powers in the Electoral Process Act, it was not the wish of the commission to disqualify candidates anyhow, unless compelled to do so.
Speaking during a meeting with political party presidents at Mulungushi International Conference Centre yesterday, Justice Chulu challenged the presidential candidates to demonstrate leadership in their speeches and actions so that their members could emulate their behaviour and conduct.
Mr Justice Chulu said it was the responsibility of the Zambia Police Service to ensure that perpetrators of violence and anyone caught abrogating the electoral code of conduct was dealt with firmly irrespective of political parties they belonged to.
“It is possible, and it has happened in many other countries in the world, that we can live in unity despite our diversity. That is the hallmark of democracy,” Mr Justice Chulu said.
Mr Justice Chulu appealed to political party leaders, the electorate and the public in general to embrace peace and not be used as instruments of violence.
He said there was only one Zambia and everyone should guard the country’s hard earned democracy and peace jealously.
“As we draw towards the end of the suspension of political party campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala, I would like you to publicly pledge and recommit yourselves unequivocally as presidential candidates and political parties, to peaceful campaigns for the remaining period,” he said.
Mr Justice Chulu said he would like to see the presidential candidates agree and affirm that they would respect the campaign timetable which should allow each political party candidate space and time to campaign in all areas without any undue hindrance. “As for the Zambia Police, the commission would like to see that you apply the Public Order Act fairly as you maintain law and order,” he said.
“How then will they vote for you? Instead, speak to them on issues that affect them and how you intend to govern if elected,” he said.
Mr Justice Chulu said all presidential candidates and their political parties had a duty to ensure that there was a peaceful election environment and the Zambian electorate should not have to endure the trauma of intimidation and violence.
The meeting was attended by Patriotic Front (PF) presidential candidate Edgar Lungu, Hakainde Hichilema of the UPND, FDD’s Edith Nawakwi and Rainbow Party leader Wynter Kabimba.
Others included United Peoples Party (UPP) candidate Dr Saviour Chishimba, Democratic Assembly (DA) Maxwell Mwamba, United National Independence Party (UNIP) secretary general Alfred Banda, Peoples Alliance Congress (PAC) Andyford Banda and Green Party secretary general Daniel Sichilongo.