REMARKS BY THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF ZAMBIA, THE HONOURABLE MR. JUSTICE ESAU E. CHULU, DURING A MEETING WITH POLITICAL PARTY PRESIDENTS ON FRIDAY, 15th JULY, 2016, AT THE MULUNGUSHI INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE CENTRE.
The Republican President,
Aspiring Presidential candidates,
The Commonwealth Special Advisor on political Dialogue, His Excellency, Professor Ibrahim Gambari,
The UN Resident Coordinator, Janet Rogan,
Members of the Commission,
Leaders of Church mother-bodies and Civil Society Organisations,
The Director of the Electoral Commission of Zambia,
Ladies and gentlemen.
We have requested to meet all presidential candidates participating in this election to discuss the unfolding events in our country during political party campaigns. All aspiring presidential candidates were informed of the meeting and we received an apology from the President of the Green Party, who will participate by phone.
On the 9th July, 2016, the Commission decided to suspend political party campaigns in Lusaka and Namwala districts for ten (10) days due to the rise in political violence in some districts which regrettably resulted in injury, loss of life and property.
Since the suspension, the Commission has been closely monitoring events on the ground, and in our assessment, the political environment in Lusaka and Namwala has quietened but it definitely can be better.
Feedback filtering through suggests that some political parties did not entirely comply with the directive, and some vehicles branded in political party colours have been reported on the streets of Lusaka. The Commission had requested the Zambia Police to ensure that political parties and candidates comply with the directive.
The Commission would therefore like to remind you, as leaders of the respective political parties, that you take full responsibility of the actions of your supporters and cadres.
It is the responsibility of all political party leaders participating in elections, to restrain their members and cadres from provoking their opponents and inciting violence during campaigns. These elections will come and go, and our country Zambia will remain. Why then do we want to make this election a matter of life and death?
As stakeholders in the electoral process, we all have a role to play in ensuring peaceful elections. For us as a Commission, we will continue to perform our mandate as provided for in the law.
The Commission can however not succeed in performing its mandate without your co-operation. When you choose to disregard the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct and campaign as if you are the only one in the contest, then you are not cooperating. Much as the Commission has been given powers in the Electoral Process Act, it is not the wish of the Commission to disqualify candidates anyhow, unless compelled to do so.
I therefore challenge you to demonstrate leadership in your speech and actions, so that your members will emulate your behaviour and conduct.
It is also the responsibility of the Zambia Police Service to ensure that perpetrators of violence and anyone caught abrogating the Electoral Code of Conduct is dealt with firmly, without fear or favour, irrespective of which political party they belong 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. I therefore appeal to all the political party leaders, the electorate and the public in general, to embrace peace and not be used as instruments of violence. We only have one country, Zambia and we should guard our hard earned democracy and peace jealously.
The Commission is aware that political party leaders met earlier in the year with the Church, and made a pledge for peace. The question that begs an answer is, why you; as political party leaders, have not honoured the pledge you made. Remember the world is watching us, and perhaps asking the same question as to why you have not honoured your pledge.
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.
I further would like us to agree and affirm, that we will respect our campaign time tables, which should allow each political party candidate space and time, to campaign in all parts of Zambia 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.
May I remind you that it is the people of Zambia who have the final say on who becomes President after 11th August, 2016. Do not instil fear in them or intimidate them. How then will they vote for you? Instead speak to them on issues that affect them and how you intend to govern if elected.
Finally, all presidential candidates and their political parties, have a duty to ensure that there is a peaceful election environment, and the Zambian electorate should not have to endure the trauma of intimidation and violence.
May God bless Zambia.