2016 Elections – Two Years On
Today marks two years since the 2016 general elections. In theory any issues or disputes resulting from the polls should be long since settled in the courts and the authorities and ZEC should be busy implementing necessary reforms and improvements to ensure the 2021 elections are free and fair and that they have the confidence of politicians and the public alike.
The reality is that fundamental issues from the 2016 elections are dragging on, undermining trust and putting the brakes on both political and economic development.
Firstly, there is the matter of the UPND petition to contest the results, which is still to see the light of day. As it stands the case is with the High Court as the UPND President Hakainde Hichilema and his Deputy Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba has asked the court to rule on whether they retain the right to be heard. Whether there was foul play at hand or not, the matter has now come down to the more fundamental question of their basic rights. At the same time the question as to why the PF has appeared so keen to keep the petition from being heard in a court of law continues to eat away at trust.
Secondly, the nullification of parliamentary seats is unresolved in several cases, notably in the case of PF Ministers Margaret Mwanakatwe and Nkandu Luo.
Despite having her seat nullified by the High Court back in November 2016, Mwanakatwe remains in office pending the determination of her appeal lodged with the Constitutional Court. During this time she has been promoted to the position of Minister of Finance. Luo also remains in position. As the cases drag on the possibility of arriving at the 2021 elections with Ministers still facing legal action for their conduct in the 2016 elections becomes more likely. PF Secretary General Davies Mwila is also working the courts hard to seek a reversal to the Constitutional Court’s ruling that Ministers who stayed in office after Parliament dissolved in 2016 should pay back their salaries.
While there are those that would have people dismiss these as partisan matters the truth is another close election in 2021 is a distinct possibility and the best possible chance for peaceful elections that helps Zambia re-establish its democratic values and get its economy on the right track is to ensure the remaining issues are dealt with quickly and transparently by courts acting free from fear or intimidation. If this can be achieved ZEC might even find that it has dealt with part of the voter apathy problem it is now facing.