By Sycorax Tiyesa Ndhlovu
Reflecting on last week’s article titled ‘Origin, purpose and enforcement of law’, which was published on September 11, 2016 on this page, one commends President Edgar Chagwa Lungu for promising to institute a commission of inquiry to investigate post-elections violence; especially in Namwala, Choma, Monze and Itezhi-tezhi districts of Southern province, in Lukulu district of Western province, in North-western province and in Lusaka province where it’s also reported that some buildings and markets were set ablaze on political related motives.
Such an inquiry is important because the conduct of some Zambians; especially before, during and after the August 11, 2016 elections has not only put the good image of Zambia in disrepute but has also left most Zambians psychologically devastated as such violence had the potential to drift into unprecedented bloodshed in Mother Zambia.
While one can focus the terms of reference(ToRs) of such an inquiry on August 11, 2016 post- election’s violence, such a strange behaviour seems to have a strong background which should also be part of ToRs in such an inquiry.
It is numerous electoral related malpractices done before such polls which forced some Zambians supporting a certain political party in some regions to be involved in post-election’s violence.
In short, there was over-confidence in a certain political party involved in such electoral malpractices that, from such malpractices, they would in the stated polls.
Therefore, in addition to the planned commission finding out the causes and perpetrators of such post-election violence, it should also deliberately find out what certain political parties did to develop such over-confidence among its supporters to go to the extent of even refusing to accept August 11, 2016 poll’s official results.
It’s also paramount to remember that United Party for National Development(UPND)’s leader, Hakainde Hichilema commonly known as HH repeatedly and on several occasions told Zambians that he would never accept the results of August 11, 2016 polls if he loses. HH warned Zambians that there would be Armageddon in the country if he loses in August 11, 2016 polls. Why? Hence, can one be surprised to learn of August 11, 2016 post-election’s violence; especially in HH’s strongholds?
Some critical issues to investigate that might have heightened UPND’s supporters’ confidence that they would automatically win in the August 11, 2016 elections, among others. include, firstly, registration of young Zambians who weren’t 18 years old by registration of voter’s time; but were registered on condition that they would be 18 on August 11, 2016; secondly, the strange high voter turnout in UPND’s strongholds; and thirdly, how the perceived 500, 000 foreigners’ voter’s cards which the Post Newspaper reported were used in the August 11, 2016 polls.
Since issuance of birth certificates is less than a decade old countrywide, how did Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ)’s registration officers know some young Zambians in Southern, Western and North-western province would be 18 years old on August 11, 2016 for them to register such young people as voters?
Moreover, why was registration of young Zambians who were perceived to be 18 years old on August 11, 2016 only applicable to Southern, Western and North-western provinces; and not countrywide?
As some Zambians have also expressed surprise and concern, why is it that for the past two or more presidential by-elections and general elections, Southern, Western and North-western provinces have started scoring abnormally high voter turnout (80%) than other regions; even beating densely populated areas such as Lusaka and Copperbelt provinces(50%)?
Intelligence reports before August 11, 2016 polls revealed that a certain political party was buying voter’s cards in a named political party’s strongholds; the voter’s cards which were reported to be given to some Zambians without voter’s cards and to some foreigners living in Zambia to vote for that political party.
To camouflage such electoral malpractices in the concerned political party, no sooner did ECZ finish registration of voters for August 11, 2016 polls than Post Newspaper displayed and reported the perceived 500, 000 foreigners’ voter’s cards which were allegedly stated they were meant to facilitate some foreigners to come to Zambia to vote for Patriotic Front (PF) party for it to win in the stated polls.
Zambia Police investigated such an issue; and discovered that the perceived 500, 000 foreigners’ voter’s cards were actually for Zambians.
Surprisingly, no one told the nation how such voter’s cards were retrieved from the Post Newspaper or anywhere where they were kept; and whether they were returned to the Zambian owners or not.
Therefore, connected to such strange high voter turnout in some regions is the suspicion of how the 500, 000 voter’s cards a certain party bought from some Zambians were used in the August 11, 2016 polls.
Could such 500, 000 voter’s cards been used to increase voter turnout in Southern, Western and North-western regions; and inflate the confidence that UPND would win in the stated elections?
The perceived 500, 000 foreigners’ voter’s cards are critical in such an inquiry both in unusual high voter’s turnout and in post election’s violence because one or two days before August 11, 2016 polls, it was unconfirmed reports disclosed that a certain political party which was also reported to be buying voter’s cards in some regions provided free transport for many people in various parts of the country to go and vote for such a party anywhere in this country.
If 500, 000 voter’s cards bought from some Zambians facilitated some Zambians voting for UPND, such a development might have increased confidence for such a party’s supporters that they would win an election.
And if election’s results reveal that their political party has lost, the supporters can be surprised; and feel that election’s results have been manipulated against UPND. Such a feeling from such a background can create post-election’s violence!
Therefore, August 11, 2016 post-election’s violence has a series of causes which the planned inquiry should consider for it to yield comprehensive and convincing findings.
For such an inquiry to meet such expectations, its composition is also critical. The composition of the commission of inquiry should be on merit to avoid further embarrassments not only to the appointing authority but also to the whole country.
Consequently, commissioners on such an inquiry should be impartial, experienced and skilled enough in such matters. If possible, non-Zambians could be co-opted in to ensure that the findings of such an inquiry aren’t doctored on tribal or political lines as has been perceived to be the case on other issues.
The critical point is that if PF government doesn’t punish those who break laws of the land, it might be perceived to be creating a fertile ground for lawlessness in the country. But lawlessness is a threat to peace and stability.
With ‘One Zambia; One Nation’ as our motto, we cannot allow anarchy to be the order of the day in Mother Zambia despite our aim being to unite the country. Lawlessness destroys love, unity and peace that have existed in Zambia for more than 50 years now.
Anarchy as exhibited before, during and after August 11, 2016 polls is repugnant and damaging to our motto of ‘One Zambia; One Nation’. Therefore, those breaking any law should be punished for others to learn from such.
And the best time to start curbing such anarchy in this country is with the inquiry on August 11, 2016 post-election’s violence.
The same inquiry might be working at t time when International Criminal Court (ICC) would also be investigating HH and his UPND’s vice president, Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba and other UPND’s officials on crime against humanity from the same post-election violence.
Hence, if our commission of inquiry produces unprofessional and doctored findings, in addition to the same political violence which has dented Zambia’s long standing good image as a beacon of peace in Africa, it would be another shame on Zambia.
A right composition of such an inquiry, inclusion of such issues in its ToR and its objective and fair execution of functions would facilitate to restore the dented Zambia’s image of a haven of peace.
No patriotic Zambian wants to see such political violence again; especially as we prepare for 2021 polls. Punishing perpetrators of such violence would stop such anarchy!
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