PF WRITES TO ECZ OVER MISMANAGEMENT OF BY-ELECTIONS
14th September, 2022.
The Acting Chief Elections Officer,
Electoral Commission of Zambia, (ECZ)
Haile Selassie Avenue,
P.O. Box 50274,
Email: [email protected]
RE: MISMANAGEMENT OF THE ELECTIONS PROCESS FOR KABUSHI, KWACHA AND LUANGWA.
The Patriotic Front (PF) Party is perturbed by the conduct of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in the management of the by-elections in the three areas mentioned above which were officially set for 15th September, 2022.
You are aware that at the instigation of Mr. Joseph Malanji and Mr. Bowman Lusambo, who were PF sponsored candidates for Kwacha and Kabushi constituencies, respectively, the Constitutional Court passed a judgement declaring that the nullification of their 2021 elections was not tantamount to their being disqualified to participate in the resultant by-elections. The High Court on the other hand made a ruling staying the holding of the by-elections in the two constituencies pending the hearing of the matter raised by the two candidates.
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The above notwithstanding, it has been considered imperative for the Patriotic Front to put on record its grievance on the questionable conduct of the ECZ in the management of the two constituency and the Luangwa District by-elections.
The following are the specific issues:
- Mishandling of the preparation of Ballot Papers
The ECZ caused for ballot papers for the three bye elections to be prepared by a company identified by the ECZ in a fashion that is shrouded in secrecy.
ECZ officials are aware that the process of preparing ballot papers demands that it be done in a transparent and objective manner and with the involvement of all the stakeholders in the electoral process. By established practice ECZ invites the stakeholders, especially candidates and their sponsoring parties to observe the whole elections process from the date of commencement of the elections period to after the polling date itself. This includes observing the preparation and distribution of ballot papers.
Sadly, the PF has observed a radical departure from this cherished practice by the ECZ, which has thrown the credibility of the elections in disarray and in serious doubt.
While it is noted that the election for Luangwa Council Chairman will be held tomorrow, 15th September, 2022, we find it prudent and reasonable to file this complaint with the ECZ so that we register our Party’s disapproval of the manner the ECZ has managed the matter of the preparation of the ballot papers also for the Luangwa by-election.
On 13th September, 2022 the ECZ secretly dispatched ballot papers to Luangwa before stakeholders were given an opportunity to inspect them. They were laden on vehicle Reg AE8716 which arrived at the Chongwe Toll gate at 08.45hrs. The vehicle was only commandeered back to Lusaka by ECZ officials after stakeholders raised this serious anomaly to the ECZ.
- Printing of Ballot Papers for Kabushi and Kwacha
The ECZ has at all times been aware that the PF had made legal challenges against the ECZ in the manner they handled the candidature of Mr. Malanji and Mr. Lusambo. The ECZ is also aware that immediately after their refusal to accept the nominations of the two, the Constitutional Court, at the suit of the said Malanji and Lusambo, passed a judgement in which they guided on the interpretation of the Constitution and ordered that individuals who found themselves in the circumstance where the two where, are not disqualified from participating in the scheduled elections. In addition, at that same time there were similar proceedings pending before the High Court against the ECZ at the instigation of the named two PF candidates. These proceedings culminated in the Ruling of the High Court to stay the elections in the two constituencies.
As a consequence of the High Court Ruling, the ECZ has today issued a Press Statement advising that the by- elections set for 15th September, 2022 in Kabushi and Kwacha shall not take place until further notice.
The PF is deeply concerned with the decision of the ECZ to proceed with printing of ballot papers for Kabushi and Kwacha constituencies, notwithstanding the fact that the ECZ was a party to the proceedings in both the Constitutional Court and the High Court. Here too, the preparation of the ballot papers was shrouded in total secrecy. This has caused the PF to believe that the ECZ has been colluding with others to push for holding of elections in Kabushi and Kwacha constituencies without the participation of the PF candidates. Our firm belief is placed in clearer context when one considers that the High Court has now ruled to stay the by-elections.
We are further concerned that the action of printing ballot papers for Kabushi and Kwacha constituencies before the ruling of the High Court has placed the concerned officials at ECZ in breach of the Public Finance Management Act as the action was purely negligent and reckless. We are taking up this matter with the Lawyers for PF who shall contact ECZ in the near due course.
We now await a response from ECZ to provide tangible and convincing explanations on the matters we have highlighted particularly in view of the elections to take place tomorrow, 15th September 2022 in the Luangwa by elections.
I must emphasise that the breaches of Electoral Laws and Regulations and departure from known practice of management and provision of oversight over elections especially by the ECZ will not go without the PF seeking necessary remedies.
C.C.: The Secretary General – PF
The Chairman for Legal Affairs – PF
The Chairman for Elections – PF
The Legal Counsel
Electoral Commission of Zambia