Friday 19th January 2018

TODAY’S BLOG: Are ZAF playing dirty tricks?

Worry increases as more and more evidence points to potential rigging of the presidential election in August.

Employees of the Zambian Air Force, ZAF, reportedly had to hand over their registration details to their commander, without any explanation as to why. Considering the tight control that President Lungu holds over the ZAF, concern has been raised that this may be due to a potential control over their vote.

As of late May this year, President Edgar Lungu appointed ZAF Commander Eric Chimense as Joint Military Head of Staff ahead of the August 11 general elections, breaking the existing tradition of having the Zambia Army Commander assuming that role.  By protocol and convention, the Zambian army commander is senior to other defense and security chiefs, and in the military, seniority is extremely important. This issue is therefore of concern, as it suggests that Lungu wants to abuse his power over the ZAF officers by granting them full control over election security.

So far this year, the actions of the ZAF have pointed towards highly unfair treatment of the different political parties, such as the sudden disproval of UPND use of flights and choppers as a means of rally transportation, despite the UPND having scheduled and received approval for flying well in advance. The questionable response from the ZAF was explained as “protecting the airspace”. But every Zambian individual knows that it is not possible to rally in Zambia without having access to air travel.

Furthermore, during the last election the ZAF was reportedly, under the demand of the PF party, involved in the recruiting of foreign nationals in border areas of Eastern and Luapula provinces – both of which are PF strongholds – to register as voters in Zambia. The Eastern Province borders Malawi while Luapula shares a border with the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Peter Sukwa, the investigative journalist who exposed the story and attempted to take pictures of PF officials conducting the exercise, was left with fractured ribs and a deaf ear after supporters of the ruling party beat him and urinated on him. It took specialist treatment from the country’s top hospital to save his life. The incident highlighted the rising levels of lawlessness that have characterized much of Lungu’s term in office.

This year, reportedly 600 000 foreign nationals from neighboring countries are appearing on the voters roll, raising alarm from opposition parties of the election rigging. The police have not yet issued a formal statement on this matter.

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