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Police cannot be trusted over levelling political playing field – M’membe

THE Socialist Party says assurances by police to level the political playing field have come late.

Last week, deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of operations Charity Katanga told a meeting in Chipata that police would no longer tolerate one political party to monopolise the campaign space ahead of the August 12 elections.

But Socialist Party leader Fred M’membe argues that police cannot be trusted on this one because they have uttered similar assurances before which were never fulfilled.

“While the assurance or promise by the Deputy

Inspector General of Police, Charity Katanga, to level the political play field as far as the administration of the public order Act is concerned is welcome, it has come rather late,” he said in a statement yesterday. “This was supposed to be the policy and practice of the police over the past five years and not just over 30 days to August 12, 2021. And given the record of the police, as we know it, we doubt the police’s ability to deliver on this assurance or promise of a level political play field.”

He said competition in the country’s politics had been undermined by police’s poor management of the public order Act.

Dr M’membe wondered why police could not give the opposition the same political space they have always given to the ruling party since Zambia is a democracy.

“There’s indeed need to level political playing field so that no political party has the advantage of running downhill against opponents who are handicapped by having to run uphill. Arguably, one way to ensure that each party and each candidate is treated fairly is to provide precisely the same opportunities as they all require an equal opportunity to put their case to the voters,” Dr M’membe added. “An uneven playing field is a central component of this regime’s political survival strategy. In today’s Zambia multiparty democratic competition is undermined not only by fraud or repression but also by unfair administration of the public order Act, unequal access to resources, public media, and state institutions.”

He said a skewed playing field always favoured autocratic regimes such as the current one.

“When opposition are denied the right to hold rallies, meetings, access to public mass media, their ability to compete in elections – and survive between elections – is often impaired. Where the playing field is skewed, the weakening, collapse, and/or cooptation of parties may effectively depopulate the opposition, even in the absence of large-scale repression,” said Dr M’membe. “A skewed playing field may thus allow this autocratic regime to maintain power without resorting to the kind of fraud or repression that can undermine its international standing, allowing it, in effect, to [have] its cake and eat it too.”

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