[caption id="attachment_569" align="aligncenter" width="6000"] IN THE PICTURE: Kafulafuta Returning Officer Mr. Darwin Chila addressing Traditional Leaders at Chiwala Technical Secondary School in Masaiti District.[/caption] The Commission recently held meetings with traditional leaders in Masaiti District ahead of the Council Chairperson's by-election scheduled to take place on Tuesday 25th April 2017. The two traditional leaders meetings on 20th March, 2017 in Masaiti and Kafulafuta Constituencies. About 97 traditional leaders drawn from Paramount Chief Mushili, Senior Chief Chiwala and Chief Nkambo's territories participated in the meetings. Addressing the traditional leaders in Masaiti District on behalf of Honourable Mr Justice Christopher Mushabati, Provincial Electoral Officer (PEO), Mr. Macloudy Nyirenda, who was flanked by Masaiti District Electoral Officer (DEO), Mr Emmanuel Chilombo noted that political players have blatantly disregarded the provisions of the electoral laws with impunity. The Commission has therefore decided to enhance interaction with all stakeholders and members of the public to ensure understanding and appreciation of the Electoral Process. The Commission hopes that as a result of such interactions, there would be more adherence to all electoral laws by everybody. The main objective of the meetings was to ensure that the traditional leaders understand their role in observing the Electoral Code of Conduct, which is now part of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016. In his speech, Justice Mushabati said that traditional leaders have been accused of intimidating, threatening, coercing or persuading their subjects to act in a particular way politically. He said other traditional leaders have been heard openly supporting particular political parties or candidates. Regulation 14 of the Electoral Code of Conduct of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 prohibits any individual or organisation from coercing or intimidating another person during campaigns, public debates or elections. A traditional leader is defined as “a Paramount Chief, Senior Chief of village headman” (of course including a village headwoman). Further Article 168 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia Chapter One of Laws of Zambia forbids Chiefs from joining or participating in partisan politics. It reads: “A Chief who seeks to hold office in a political party or election or appointment to a state, except that of Councillor, shall abdicate the Chief's throne.” Justice Mushabati reminded the traditional leaders that on 25th April, 2017, the Commission would be conducting the Masaiti District Council Chairperson's by-election, in the District. He appealed to traditional leaders, to avoid taking part in the campaigns or to openly support any particular candidate or political party participating in the said elections. Further, he appealed with traditional leaders to avoid engaging themselves in acts of violence and behaviours which were likely to cause anarchy in the country. “We have only one country, Zambia, which we should guard jealously. May I also urge those of you, traditional leaders, who registered as voters in the Masaiti District Council to ensure that you and your subjects turn up to Vote for the candidate of your choice in the forthcoming by-election. I make this appeal as well, through you, to all other traditional leaders and their subjects where similar elections are going to be held in the country,” said Justice Mushabati. He hoped the election in Masaiti District Council would be very peaceful and therefore, become a shining example to the country as a whole which experienced unprecedented acts of violence during the 2016 General Elections. He urged the traditional leaders to remember to remain non-partisan in their deeds and words. He noted that traditional leaders were important in the country, because they are the custodians of cultural norms and traditions, from which the society values are derived. Justice Mushabati also said that regardless of diverse backgrounds and origins all citizens are subjects to traditional leaders, in one way or the other, and as such, voters come from among their subjects.