VERNON Mwaanga has called on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to improve its credibility by seeing itself as an electoral commission of the country, and not of the government.
He said in the midst of a ruthless COVID-19, electoral conflict is the last thing the country needs.
Mwaanga, a freedom fighter and veteran politician, said the Commission’s credibility would continue to be questioned if it did not change.
“Many of the credibility doubts being expressed will begin changing when the ECZ begins seeing itself as an electoral commission of the country, and not of the government – and conducts itself in such a manner. For as long as it does not view itself as being accountable to the country and not to any political party, whatever outcomes it produces will never carry any credibility,” he said in a statement issued on Sunday. “ECZ can decide to be part of the progress and development of the country by ensuring peace and stability through its conduct. On the other hand, its leadership can decide to go down in history as being responsible for the unnecessary and avoidable confusion that may follow any electoral process whose outcome lacks credibility – and only they can decide that. This important ball is in the court of ECZ – and no one else.”
And recounting the country’s great democratic credentials, Mwaanga wondered why political leaders were failing to dialogue.
He said perhaps it was time for Zambia to seek help from other nations she helped liberate and unite.
“Zambia has been renowned for helping its neighbours achieve peace through dialogue and avoid conflicts. Our peace-making roles in Zimbabwe, Namibia, South Africa, Mozambique, Angola, DRC, Somalia and Sudan, are well documented. Maybe the time has come for us to seek the help of these African institutions,” Mwaanga said. “It is not often that I agree with the views of the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, but I totally agree with his observations about forthcoming elections in Africa, which he said must be free, fair, transparent and represent the genuine will of the people. Similar views have been expressed by the British Minister for African and Commonwealth Affairs James Duddridge and the European Union Ambassador to Zambia Jacek Jankowski.”
He called on all citizens to rise and renew their quest for peace.
“All Zambians regardless of their political affiliations, have a duty to contribute momentum to Zambia’s renewed quest for peace and prosperity. We must [use] our collective will to act and work together as Zambians to peacefully bring about the change we all desire. This will make a difference between war and peace,” Mwaanga said. “It has always been my view that belonging to different political parties, should not be equated to enmity. Those of us who participated in the struggle for independence and plural politics always understood that democracy accommodates difference of opinions, which must be respected. We can disagree in a cultured manner, without being disagreeable.”
He said although the ECZ met political party leaders, nothing fruitful came out.
Mwaanga described the summit as “the most-strange consultative meeting I can remember in recent history”.
“It was evident that the chemistry between party presidents was less than cheerful. It was clear that these are people who have never sat down in private, to discuss the present and future of our country and its people. It was evident that a majority of leaders do not trust the Electoral Commission of Zambia and do not regard them as fair or impartial,” he added. “Africa’s recent history shows that disputed elections have been a major source of internal conflicts and in many cases electoral commissions have been largely responsible for these conflicts due inefficiency, bias and lack of transparency. The role of international observers has come under close scrutiny after what was experienced in Kenya and more recently in Malawi.”
Mwaanga observed that there were a lot of unresolved issue that needed to be ironed out before elections.
He said the world was already engulfed with the coronavirus pandemic, so electoral conflicts should be the last thing to entertain.
“…There are still unresolved issues relating to the vote counts and particularly the tallying and verification process, which is not transparent enough. Some years ago, president Levy Mwanawasa, appointed the Electoral Reforms Technical Committee (ERTC), under the chairmanship of prominent Lusaka lawyer Mrs Mwangala Zaloumis, which produced an important report, whose recommendations have been implemented by a number of African countries, with salutary results,” said Mwaanga. “The world is in the midst of a ruthless coronavirus pandemic, which no one could foresee. People have lost jobs; airlines have gone bankrupt and so have many companies. National economies everywhere have contracted and ordinary citizens are struggling to put food on their tables. Electoral conflict is the last thing they need. Political leaders should seriously dialogue and agree on ground rules, which are fair to all.”