MACDONALD Chipenzi has urged President Edgar Lungu to relax or suspend enforcement of Article 31 and application of Cap 112 of the Laws of Zambia in districts and wards holding by-elections for districts council chairpersons and councilors scheduled for September 14.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia has set September 14 as the date on which council chairperson elections for Itezhi-tezhi, Kanchibiya, Luvushimanda and Lunte districts would be held.
ECZ public relations officer Raphael Phiri also announced that the commission would in addition conduct eight local government by-elections in Chililalila, Chitwi, Luansobe, Luntomfwe, Libonda, Mpidi, Kakonga, Chimanja and Mabinga wards.
Following the approval of the threatened state of emergency by Parliament, Inspector General of Police Kakoma Kanganja announced on Saturday that regulations in Cap 112 could be revised at any time.
During this period, police will regulate and prohibit publication and dissemination of matters [that are] prejudicial to public safety, restriction and control of assemblies, control of movements, more especially during hours of darkness, apprehension and detention of suspected criminals beyond 48 hours, search of places without a warrant, to mention but a few,
“So, as we speak, there will be additions to what I have commented on. You will find [that] we’ll limit some of these publications, social media and the rest. Where people are abusing, we might end up limiting on those publications.”
Kanganja stressed that now that police powers had been augmented with invocation of Article 31 of the Republican Constitution, the service had no reason to “fail” but would instead ensure that sanity, peace and order prevails in Zambia.
But Chipenzi stated in a statement that with by-elections now set in accordance with the Constitution and the electoral process Act whose campaigns and election date fall within the period under a full-force of State of threatened Public Emergency, there would be need for President Lungu to either relax the requirements or suspend the enforcement of article 31 and Preservation of Public Security Act.
“This is because the enforcement of the above pieces of legislation will demand for the derogation, suspension and restriction of citizens’ freedoms and rights, including those of the contestants and their parties and supporters such as political assemblies, movements, dissemination of information, expression, processions and rallies, which are necessary ingredients for a sound competitive electoral process,” Chipenzi, an electoral expert stated.
The suspension of the enforcement of article 31 and preservation of public security Act ahead of the scheduled by-elections in the affected districts and wards would necessitate and assure a level electoral play field to all electoral players such as political parties, candidates and civil society organisations.
Chipenzi stated that it would be unfair and an affront to competitive electoral democracy and a sound electoral process to proceed to holding the by-elections in the presence of a state of threatened public emergency in the areas.
He contended that when people’s rights and freedoms were restricted, it would render other contenders in the contest irrelevant and ineffective in canvassing electoral support.
In this vein, President Lungu has a duty in complimenting the work of ECZ to conduct credible elections by immediately suspending the invocation of Article 31 and the application of the Preservation of Public Security Act in the affected districts and wards and instruct all law enforcement agencies to allow a smooth holding of these by-elections without hindrance,
He also urged the ECZ to guide the electoral participants, political parties, candidates and media on how the electoral activities in the three districts and wards where by-elections were scheduled would be conducted in the face of the existing state of threatened public emergency.
“Any holding of by-elections with the obtaining political situation and without suspending article 31 and preservation of public security Act will render the by-elections, from the onset, unfair, not free and the electoral outcomes likely to lack legitimacy and credibility,” feared Chipenzi