Wednesday 17th January 2018

The ECZ has no legal standing to suspend election campaigns – Beth Chanda

Dear Editor,

The ECZ suspension of all campaigning in Lusaka and Namwala district is not lawful and infringes upon opposition campaigns. The ECZ have suspended campaigning because of building electoral violence surrounding the elections. The announcement came after the death of Mapenzi Chibulu on Friday, an innocent UPND cadres shot dead by police in the street. UPND supporters had gathered in Lusaka following the police announcement a pre-planned rally with Hakainde Hichilema in Chawama was to be cancelled. Suspension of campaigning and the prevention of the UPND rallies seem to be common place now  support is building for Lungu’s main opposition. We only hope the ECZs role in suspending campaigns does not mean they are working in tandem with the PF to prevent the opposition reaching State House.

The provision of Section 28(2) of the Act states that the commission can amend the timetable of an election only if it is dictated by necessity to ensure a free and fair election. The violence that has occurred recently has not been preventing a free and fair election but is a sign of growing frustration felt by the people of Zambia over the fact that they believe that the elections are being compromised.

Furthermore the ECZ’s jurisdiction on campaign periods as set out by Section 28(1)(a)(v) stipulates that the ECZ can only provide for the opening and closing dates of an election but not for any form of suspension. This means that the ECZ has no legal power to suspend a campaign. It is clear from section 2 of the act that there is no flexibility in the campaign period of three months, the length of the campaign will now not reach this time limit as a consequence. This means that candidates will not have been able to use their guaranteed right to campaign for their position. This seems completely unfair and actually unlawful. The ECZ needs to end this ban on campaigning immediately and allow the candidates their time to spread their message to the people before August 11th.

It is clear from the timing of this suspension that this is yet another way of Lungu silencing his opposition as their support grows. This is highlighted by the fact that the ECZ have not disclosed where they received their directive to suspend the campaign came from. The suspension is in many ways a punishment for the march conducted by UPND supportets in response to their rally being cancelled, yet we do not see punishments for those PF cadre who have been murdering UPND supporters. This is unnecessarily harsh punishment put in place to slow the speed of ever growing support for Lungu’s opposition.

This decision is completely unfounded in law and should therefore be revoked as soon as possible. It is completely unfair to punish the UPND for crimes that are constantly being committed by the PF which has resulted in the loss of life of UPND supporters. This is a farce that needs to come to an end now so that all campaigns can continue ahead of August 11.

Many thanks,

Beth Chanda

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