Wednesday, August 13, 2014
STATEMENT ON THE FORTHCOMING MANGANGO BY-ELECTIONS IN KAOMA DISTRICT IN WESTERN PROVINCE SLATED FOR 19TH AUGUST, 2014 ISSUED IN LUSAKA ON 10TH AUGUST 2014 AT FODEP HOUSE.
Dear Colleagues, Introduction We have decided to call this briefing to update you on the goings-on in Mangango ahead of the by-election in a week’s time scheduled for the 19th August 2014 especially with increasing reports of electoral and political violence being reported almost on daily basis as the day of the vote nears. On Friday, 8th August 2014 Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) officials travelled to Mangango for the following reasons 1) to ascertain reports of electoral and political violence being reported in the area and 2) hold a discussion forum dubbed “Race to Manda Hill Discussion Forum” which was held on Saturday, 9th August, 2014 with the aim of bringing together all aspiring candidates to face the electorates and make their plans for the area. FODEP is happy to report that in the two days that FODEP spent in Mangango and Kaoma areas respectively, it never witnessed any incident of violence. The people there were complaining of lack of development and the state of the main road to Mangango. The electoral environment was peaceful and tranquil as political parties went on with their business of canvassing for votes. Race to Manda Hill Discussion Forum: FODEP is glad to report that all the candidates, save for the United Party for National Development (UPND) candidate, Godwin Putu, featured at the Forum held at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church grounds on Saturday, 9th August 2014. A number of issues were raised by the aspirants. Among the issues promised by the candidates to do if elected, were; improved and quality social services such as water, health and education. Others include working on the Katunda-Mangango-Lukulu road which is currently in bad state. At the end of the discussion which took almost three hours, the aspirants and their supporters pledged to promote and conduct peaceful and issue based campaigns ahead of the by-elections. The Forum which attracted hundreds of Mangango residents of all sheds, accorded the residents an opportunity to meet and ask questions to their prospective members of parliament which the aspirants ably responded to. FODEP Observations on the electoral campaigns However, the following were FODEP’s observations on the Mangango electoral campaigns: • Some participating political parties, candidates and supporters are engaged in smear campaigns of discrimination based on age and language; • Treating of voters through the provision of philanthropies such as meat and food is said to be common; • Presence of pockets of political party officials from others parts of the country such as Lusaka; • Allegations of involvement of District Commissioners in the campaigns despite them being civil servants Political violence However, reports of violence emerged from Luampa where suspected UPND and PF cadres crashed on suspicion that the latter was harboring alleged “thugs from Lusaka” who they accused of causing problems in the area ahead of the local government by-elections and that one of the sub-chief and District Commissioner in the area were allegedly campaigning for the ruling party. This resulted in the alleged beating of a sub-chief by suspected UPND cadres. Fortunately, Hon. Josephine Limata is said to have freed the area after sensing danger. On Sunday, the 10th August, 2014, FODEP received another report of violent campaigns right in Mangango which happened on Saturday 9th August, 2014 at night. The violence is said to have been ignited by suspected PF and UPND cadres over among other things allegation that PF was camped at a government House for their partisan activities leading to UPND cadres wanting to force them out of the premise and also on allegation that PF cadres wanted to block the UPND from holding a campaign rally on account that UPND candidate, Godwin Putu snubbed the public forum FODEP organized in the day that brought together all candidates. This attracted angry reactions from the UPND camp hence fighting ensued. All these incidents could be avoided if the top leadership of the two political parties could be sincere and practical steps are put in place to curbing electoral violence and in promoting electoral harmony and co-existence. PF and UPND Rivalry FODEP is at a loss to appreciate the political and electoral rivalry between the PF and the UPND which is growing by the day. Records of their violent crashes are coveted for anyone to see. The vivid ones include events in Livingstone and Mpongwe parliamentary by-elections and Rufunsa local government by-election. The recent ones being in Batoka, Luampa local government by-elections current under way. In this regard, FODEP wants to strongly condemn the recent violent confrontation between the UPND and the PF in Mangango and Luampa areas respectively and demands an immediate end to politics of confrontation in Zambia being practiced and perpetuated by the two rival political parties. This reminds the country of the rivalry that was there prior to the 2011 elections between the PF and the MMD. Zambians should seriously reflect on that this kind of politics never pays but rather discourages people from being part of the political governance process of their own country. The actions of the two political parties do not inspire confidence in the electoral process and has the greatest potential to scare away would be voters in Mangango and other areas where elections are taking place and essentially and especially where the two political parties will be competing. Further, though both political parties have condemned violence in their public statements, this has only remained as lip-service condemnation hence time for them they walked the talk. They should find amicable ways of settling their political differences rather than resorting to confrontations and violence every time there is an election. The Role of Police and other Law enforcement agencies FODEP hopes that the presence of Inspector General of Police Ms. Stella Libongani in Mangango will not fuel the situation as it happened in 2010 when the IG’s presence in Mufumbwe caused more violence in the area than peace. The police should not aim at pursuing the suspected committers of violence only but finding a lasting solution to the root-causes of such violence during elections too. The police should at all times try to be fair enough in applying the law. The Anticorruption Commission should also intensify its hunt for the perpetuators of electoral corruption and treating. District Commissioners in campaigns The suspected presence of DCs in the campaigns is a breach of the electoral laws and regulations and one expected the police to have swung in action by now but alas inertia has gripped the Zambia Police Force with reasons best known to themselves. The continued involvement of DCs and other government officials in campaign trails of the party in power and also the unfettered use of government resources and facilities by unauthorized government officials could be an instigator of electoral violence hence the need for the employers (President) to instruct the DCs to immediately withdraw from engaging in partisan and active politics. Part III of the electoral Code of Conduct regulation 21(K) the use of government and parastatal facilities, transportation and resources are only limited to the Republican President and Vice-President. Any person who contravenes this regulation commits an offence and is liable on conviction to fine not exceeding 5,000 penalty units or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 2 years or to both. Conclusion FODEP will continue to keenly follow the happenings in all areas where by-elections are to be conducted and would try to place monitors including holding discussion forums, funds permitting. In Mangango, FODEP is already on the ground and receiving reports on a daily basis from its monitors. It is our prayer that Mangango by-election will be held in a peaceful electoral environment and that law enforcement agencies and the people of Mangango will continue to be vigilant and report any suspected perpetrators of violence and electoral malpractice before and during elections. Way Forward FODEP is a firm believer that elections are a process of actualizing representative democracy and expose people to the experiences of competition for power through balloting and not battering each other. Elections are means of peaceful and not violent change of leadership in societies be it at local government, parliamentary and presidential level. In as much as FODEP is aware that violence and conflict arise from pursuit of varying interests, goals and aspirations by individuals and or groups, there is no justification whatsoever, for any political party or its cadres in a multiparty democracy like Zambia to employ force to intimidate the opponents. This is undemocratic and an affront to free expression and credible electoral process. The earlier the two political parties provide effective leadership to their cadres and supporters on this thorny issue in the electoral process the better for Zambia and the electoral process in general but if nothing is done till 2016, then the 2016 general elections are threatened with heightened political confrontation and violence. It is in this regard that a new constitution is needed before 2016 general elections as it will be key to resolving some of these electoral and political malaises. This is so because the electoral body will be empowered to decisively deal with such delinquencies in the electoral process. Leverage