Evidence is mounting that suggests the up and coming Zambian elections on 11th August will not be free or fair, and that any guarantee of a fair hearing should there be any post-election dispute over the outcome is in jeopardy.
Here are the key reasons we should be worried;
- The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has contracted the controversial Al Ghurairi company of Dubai for printing ballot papers.
- New legislation on the 13th May will protect corrupt ECZ officials from prosecution, criminalise the publishing of ECZ documents, and transfers powers to Lungu to decide the fate of ECZ officials.
- There are reports of up to 500,000 Malawians and Congolese foreign nationals, recruited by the PF, registering to vote in Luapula and Eastern, known PF strongholds.
- The military forces and state police are increasingly interfering with the political process.
- Unqualified allies of Edgar Lungu have been appointed to the Constitutional Court who will pass verdict on any dispute on election results.
As polls indicate it is a tight race between Lungu’s ruling PF and Hakainde Hichilema’s UPND, Zambia’s 25-year record of free, democratic elections is under threat as Lungu makes moves to win at all costs. Yet, what is most astonishing is the silence over these abuses against the electoral process.
The ECZ has faced widespread criticism for its appointment of Al Ghurairi to print the election’s ballot papers. Al Ghurairi are relatively unknown despite involvement in the 2016 disputed election in Uganda, and it is not clear why the ECZ would change from the firm in South Africa which has been used since 2006. Furthermore, the Dubai based company are asking for $3.6million for the contract, twice that of the South African firm Ren-Form CC. Ren-Form CC have since appealed to the Zambia Public Procurement Authority (ZPPA) who have advised the ECZ to reconsider their decision. Controversially, the ECZ have remained adamant on the use of Al Ghurairi, prompting fears of electoral rigging on behalf of the PF.
In addition, on the 13th May, the PF leadership passed new laws providing ECZ officials with immunity from prosecution, protecting corrupt officials from manipulating election results. The bill will also criminalise the disclosure or publication of ECZ documents, preventing the media from analysing any election results other than those allowed. It also proposes the transfer of powers to President Lungu enabling him to sack any ECZ commissioner without contest. These amendments will terminate the ECZ’s position as an independent body. Edith Nawakwi of the Forum for democracy and Development has rightly said: “This bill will put the [Electoral] Commission under the direct protection of the president. The commissioners will act for and on behalf of the president who appoints them.”
There are also substantiated reports that Patriotic Front has been recruiting up to 500,000 non-Zambian PF voters from Malawi and the Democratic Republic of Congo on the borders of PF strongholds, Luapula and Eastern Province. Peter Sukwa, a journalist exposing the story was beaten and urinated on by PF supporters. In May, The Post released evidence of Malawians who possessed Zambian identity document. Such voters have the potential to illegally swing the election in favour of the PF.
Furthermore, the interference of State Police and military personnel has been increasing in the election process so far. State Police have turned a blind eye to violence against opposition supporters. Now they have been used to shut down The Post after its criticism of Lungu’s PF and comments by the commander of the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) on 20th May suggest that State security forces may be used to facilitate election manipulation and suppress opposition support using ZAF helicopters.
The icing on the cake is that earlier this year, President Lungu appointed six unqualified nominees to act as judges on the new Constitutional Court, which has the final say on matters including the election of a President. Two of these nominees are classmates from Lungu’s law school, and a third is a relative who secured Lungu’s nomination as PF president. If the election results were indeed to be manipulated against the opposition and later disputed through official petition, it is unlikely that a Constitutional Court review would rule against Lungu’s PF.
The above evidence suggests that Lungu is mounting a strategy of election malpracctice and corruption for August 11th and also preparing to defend a disputed result. But why have the opposition been so silent? The people of Zambia must speak out and vote against the PF’s corruption or they risk losing their right to democracy