GEARS says it is evident that President Edgar Lungu is scared of holding of the Patriotic Front general conference ahead of this August general elections.
Governance, Elections, Advocacy, Research Services (GEARS) Initiative Zambia executive director McDonald Chipenzi also says the President is on a campaign trail than a working visit in Muchinga Province.
Chipenzi believes the President’s profound fear could be hinged on alleged growing dissent within the PF, “over his 3rd term bid.”
“He is afraid of losing at the convention due to his desire to navigate for a Third Term in office,” he said. “I hope he is not learning bad lessons from long serving leaders like Yoweri Museveni.”
Chipenzi further said it is unlikely for any political party in Zambia to hold a national convention, ahead of elections this year.
He said such was a threat to internal democracy and constitutionalism.
Chipenzi said even if other parties would be willing to hold their conventions, police and health authorities would not grant them permission to do so, because “the PF is reluctant to hold one.”
“[It] would be embarrassing to allow opposition parties to hold theirs first when the ruling party’s convention is at sea,” Chipenzi said. “The ruling party would want all political parties to be in its shoes/quagmire of not holding party conventions ahead of the August general election, to avoid any one party laughing at the other.”
He urged political parties to hold their national conventions, as earlier announced last year.
Chipenzi said the COVID-19 pandemic should not perpetually be used to undermine internal democratic processes in political parties, and also to violate Article 60 of the Republican Constitution on the need for political parties to hold regular internal elections.
Meanwhile, Chipenzi said since President Lungu had now opened the door for the countrywide political campaigns, being disguised as working visits, it was important that all other parties do the same.
He said the opposition parties should be allowed by police and health authorities to gather and embark on their own ‘working visits’ in provinces, mobilising supporters.
“Soon or later, these opposition political parties will start ignoring and defying the restrictions and guidelines on COVID-19 to also referencing to what President Lungu has started doing,” Chipenzi said. “[He is] mobilising his party structures in provinces in the name of work visits, yet it is for the general election.”
He said President Lungu is preaching double standards by encouraging Zambians to work from home, while he goes to campaign in the field.
President Lungu left Lusaka on Monday for a five-day outing in Muchinga Province, which is expediently called working visit.
He said President Lungu should stop pretending over the issue of COVID-19 and that he must respect his own words of working from home.
“[But he is] gallivanting the country amidst the soaring positive figures of COVID-19 in the country,” Chipenzi said, in a statement. “His indiscriminate movement, with his large entourages, attracting large gatherings in districts he is visiting is setting a bad example to other political parties, especially the opposition in the fight against COVID-19.”
Chipenzi said President Lungu should have been the least travelling person and summoning large gatherings, “especially after advising citizens to avoid crowded places, including work places.”
“Instead, President Lungu has defied his own guidance to the nation and is in the forefront holding meetings in provinces with chiefs, party and heads of government officials,” he noted.
“On one hand he is preaching working from home but on the other, he is working from the field himself; a total contradiction.”
He added that such was enough confirmation that President Lungu was in and on a campaign mood/trail than working visits, ahead of the August general election, respectively.
He said even “the so-called five working days in Muchinga Province are not working but campaign days.”
“[He is] trying to undo his political competitors both from within his party and outside,” Chipenzi said. “Ironically, the same President, through his secretary general, Davies Mwila, has cancelled most of the party provincial internal elections, including the national convention, which date is now lost in uncertainties.”
He is surprised that while Mwila cited surging COVID-19 positive cases, as the reason for the deferment of the Muchinga and Northern provinces PF conferences, the ruling party has been holding huge campaign rallies, “with bigger numbers of attendees than what a convention can attract.”