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Opposition campaign space in Chilubi significantly reduced – CCMG

THE Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) says the opposition in Chilubi were not given enough opportunity to campaign following the cancellation of their rallies by the police.

And the CCMG has recommended for the establishment of an Electoral Fast Track Court to deal with matters expeditiously during elections.

According to a report on the Chilubi by-election released by the group of the three Church Mother Bodies, a recommendation has been made on investigating the alleged distribution of food stuffs.

“CCMG is also concerned about efforts to limit the access of political parties to Chilubi Island through the hiring of the ZAMPOST ferry solely for supporters of the PF. CCMG notes that the ECZ intervened with the ferry operator on this issue. However, CCMG’s monitors reported that whilst access was restored, fees were increased for the ferrying of vehicles. These actions were an effort to limit democratic space for the opposition and CCMG condemns this behaviour in the strongest terms,” the report states.

“CCMG condemns the incidents of politically-motivated violence which occurred on 27 January and 30 January, as well as all instances of politically-motivated violence, and the lack of a robust police response to de-escalate tensions and punish the perpetrators.”

CCMG stated that the cancellation of the opposition rallies was a reduction in democratic space.

“CCMG noted the cancellation of opposition political parties’ leaders campaign events scheduled between 6 and 9 February pursuant to provisions of the public order Act in order to allow for the President’s visit to Chilubi. While the law provides for the cancellation of scheduled events in an area, CCMG notes that this action significantly reduced the space for opposition parties to campaign. CCMG calls for strict adherence to schedules agreed upon by all political parties,” it urged. “CCMG further calls on the ECZ and Zambia Police to play a significant role in coordinating and ensuring adherence to an agreed campaign schedule. CCMG notes that failure to adhere to an agreed schedule creates an uneven playing field and undermines Zambians’ rights to participate freely in electoral processes.”

The group also stated that they were concerned with the distribution of food by the ruling party instead of the prescribed bodies.

“CCMG is also concerned by reports from its monitors that despite initial distribution of food aid by the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit without political interference and with assistance from the church structures, in the week immediately preceding the 13 February by-election political party members took up the distribution of government food aid to Chilubi residents. This is a serious act of misappropriation of government resources for political purposes and should be thoroughly investigated and the persons involved brought to book,” it recommended.

CCMG monitors reported a concerning incident at Muchinshi Primary School in Mpanshya Ward where party cadres briefly blocked access to the polling station and intimidated voters by asking who they were voting for, and later clashed with supporters from an opposing party.

CCMG noted that the ECZ reported the incident to the police and the police responded rapidly and dispersed the cadres.

The report states that CCMG also received a report of political party cadres providing cash handouts to voters at Kapampa Primary School in Kachindi Ward. CCMG said that act was in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

It also reported of political violence incidences that took place.

“CCMG condemns the instances of politically-motivated violence that took place in the pre-election period and urges the police to take a more active role in protecting citizens and bringing perpetrators of violence to book, regardless of political affiliation,” it urged.

“CCMG also condemns the multiple efforts at limiting democratic space throughout the Chilubi parliamentary by-election, both in the pre-election period and on the election day. These efforts undermine Zambians’ rights to participate freely in electoral processes and undermine the inclusivity, transparency and credibility of the election.”

The CCMG called on the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Zambia Police to take a proactive approach in ensuring equal opportunity for all political parties and Zambian citizens to take part in electoral processes.

The CCMG urged all stakeholders, especially the ECZ, police and political parties, to devise solutions to the issues that limited democratic space and created an uneven playing field in Chilubi so they are not repeated in future elections.

“Given the events in Chilubi, CCMG calls on the ECZ, the Zambia Police, Christian Churches Monitoring Group and lawmakers to take up the recommendations in the report of the Commission of Inquiry into Voting Patterns and Electoral Violence (January 2019), including the recommendations to amend the Electoral Process Act of 2016 and the Electoral Code of Conduct to establish an Electoral Fast Track Court to resolve electoral violence matters and other electoral disputes expeditiously, and to de-politicise the operation, management and distribution of public resources, facilities and goods and services,” the report states.

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