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ECZ’s supposedly balancing act

ELECTORAL Commission of Zambia chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano has announced the suspension of campaign rallies ahead of this year’s Presidential and General Elections.

“The Technical Committee through the Standard Operating Procedures had earlier discouraged the holding of political rallies. That given, with the expert advice from Ministry of Health on the current COVID-19 situation, the Technical Committee has reviewed the guidelines with due consideration of public health and has recommended the suspension of campaign rallies. We would like to announce that the Commission is in support of this recommendation and has suspended campaign rallies with immediate effect. Important to note, it is the rallies that have been suspended and NOT campaigns,” says Patrick. “We have done this within our jurisdiction as an independent body mandated to preside over all electoral matters in the country. Additionally, we have taken this action following the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Zambia and the country has been in Alert State since March 2020. Given the conduct of political parties and their lack of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines, we have a moral obligation to safeguard the lives of the people. We further need to ensure that the environment does not deteriorate to facilitate the conduct of elections impossible. The Commission through engagements with the Technical Committee and Ministry of Health who is the authority in health matters, and in particular, COVID-19, will continue to monitor and review the situation and provide updates to the stakeholders. Having said this, let me repeat our clarion call to political parties to take this matter seriously. We would like to remind all stakeholders that the issue at hand is a matter of life and death and must be approached with utmost caution. Political parties must exhibit responsible leadership and protect the lives of Zambians.”

It is true that the risk that election campaigns could involve not just the spreading of ideas but the COVID-19 virus is real. The balancing act between public health protection and democratic discussion and contestation is, therefore, an important one.

Some adaptation of the electoral process is clearly needed to preserve human life given the known risks. However, freedom of expression is crucial to election campaigning and the ability of ideas and information to flow during the electoral process should be restricted as minimally as possible. That said, we find both the government’s stance through the Ministry of Health and others, including the ECZ, to be very hypocritical! There’s no sincerity in the manner they’re coercing everyone today to adhere to COVID-19 guidelines!

Not long ago, Edgar Lungu’s inner circle, the system, was alarmed and started accusing then minister of health Dr Chitalu Chilufya of cooking COVID-19 cases in the country during his usually charismatic updates. They accused him of using the pandemic as a cash cow and to also nurture – oil – his political ambitions.

Well, they finally replaced him after a spirited but prolonged fight! But today, they are carelessly using that same template they attacked in their attempt to curtail the opposition’s mobilisation efforts.

This nation cannot be reduced to blind followers of both verse and vanity! For even in cowardice there’s courage. As the adage goes, no matter how long it takes a stammering child will say his father’s name!

This regime will be called for what it is – a fraud! It’s existing and seeking to retain power for self-service. Where it can’t use physical violence, it will bulldoze its way through State apparatus and arrogance of power.

ECZ, indeed, have the mandate to oversee these elections and ensure they are free, fair and transparent. But this Commission is not a grocery stall for the PF and its questionable presidential candidate. Yes, the ECZ can invoke whatever they can phantom through the so-called technical committee but time to account shall surely come. For how long have we had COVID-19? How has this regime treated or behaved ever since? Edgar and company have behaved very recklessly since March 2020 while clamping the opposition – but somehow, we have been lucky the pandemic has somewhat been subdued! And this moribund ECZ had been toothless all this time but now it wants to project its fangs claiming people’s lives matter! How nonsensical! Where is credibility in all this? This is indeed the untamed Africa way of doing things!

Time alone will tell. And truth crushed to the ground will rise again.

As one African proverb says, “A cooking pot for a chameleon is a cooking pot for a lizard”.

The truth is that ECZ and PF, in collusion, have for a long time been scheming to cripple the opposition from mobilising freely. This started from manoeuvres over voter registration, and now it has come to campaigns after realising that the PF is losing ground almost everywhere in the country. It is therefore almost impossible to believe in the ECZ, to treat them as referees. To the contrary, it is easier to believe that they are a team with PF. ECZ and PF can fool themselves as team players but they certainly can’t fool Zambians.

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