GEARS Initiative Zambia is concerned with the distribution of relief food in Kasama and COVID-19 items in Mwansabombwe ahead of the parliamentary by-elections in those constituencies.
McDonald Chipenzi, in a statement, decried the actions as unfair from an electoral standpoint.
Chipenzi is the Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) executive director.
He said the recent directive by Minister in the Office Vice-President Olipa Phiri to Kasama district disaster management committee (KDMC) to urgently distribute relief food in the district, which houses the vacant Lukashya parliamentary seat, was a pure electoral blackmail and a campaign gimmick.
Chipenzi is amazed at how Phiri only realised the hunger situation in the area now after the death Lukashya independent member of parliament Mwenya Munkonge, “when she never paid any attention before the vacancy was created.”
“It is stressing to note how she is now seeing a hunger emergency in Kasama leading to her seven-day period ultimatum to the KDMC and [the Kasama] district commissioner (Kelly Kashiwa) to complete the distribution of relief food to affected areas and not keeping the food in the warehouse,” he said. “Her impromptu visit to Kasama relief food warehouse and not other areas equally affected by the hunger situation like Luapula and Gwembe valleys, Western Province and Malambo Constituency with similar complaints was an indictment enough that she is engaging in electoral malpractice and politics, and not relief food distribution.”
Chipenzi added that with this new way of using relief food and Phiri’s new discovery that people were going without food in the area, “we are not far from the fact that this is a mere act of electoral blackmail using relief food to hoodwink electorates in Lukashya.”
He accused Phiri of posturing being on government duty when in fact she was campaigning for the PF.
“Her assertions that Kasama was one of the places that were badly hit by floods and that it was government’s responsibility to feed all the affected people is baseless and mere politics because since the time the floods hit the area, how many times have the government distributed the relief food to the affected districts and people?” Chipenzi wondered. “Sadly, DMMU (Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit) and district commissioners have been embedded and fused in promoting electoral blackmail and corruption through relief food distribution in by-election areas without censure and, or recourse.”
Chipenzi is alarmed that for the first time since COVID-19 broke out, PF secretary general Davies Mwila was in Mwansabombwe “under the pretext of donating COVID-19 items, yet they are launching the campaigns for the vacant seat of Mwansabombwe ahead of the by-election.”
He said the governing party was doing that despite the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) having not yet announced the election date and the campaign period for the two vacant parliamentary constituencies.
Chipenzi said it was sad how pre-campaign period electoral irregularities and malpractices were condoned in the Zambian electoral process without censure from authorities.
“It is GEARS Initiative Zambia’s hope and prayer that the Commission will, this time around, display its teeth, even if it can’t bite, against electoral blackmail and corruption in accordance with the provisions of the electoral code of conduct,” said Chipenzi. “GEARS Initiative envisages an explosive campaign ahead in Lukashya and Mwansabombwe coated with tribalism, corruption, blackmail and vote-buying. Electoral and political violence may not be ruled out if the institutions mandated to enforce the electoral code of conduct continue to behave and operate at the current rate and capacities.”
The Mwansabombwe and Lukashya seats fell vacant after the deaths of PF’s Rodgers Mwewa and Munkonge, respectively, all on July 18, 2020.