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UPND sues ECZ for banning campaign rallies

UPND has sued the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) over the latter’s banning of public rallies ahead of the August 12 elections.

According an affidavit filed in the Ndola High Court yesterday by lawyers from M Associates, the opposition party argues that the Commission’s decision is irrational and illegal.

The opposition party is therefore seeking judicial review in the matter.

In this matter, UPND secretary general Batuke Imenda has cited the ECZ and Attorney General as first and second respondents respectively.

Imenda is further asking the court to quash the decision as it infringes on his party’s right to go round the country, assemble and engage the electorate during the campaign period.

He submitted that on or about June 3, 2021, the ECZ through its chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano announced the immediate suspension of all campaign rallies during the campaign period ahead of the August 12 elections on the purported reason that there was a looming or existing third wave or upsurge in COVID-19 cases in the country.

Imenda argued that whereas ECZ prescribed the campaign period as ranging between May 14 and August 11, 2021, it has not prescribed the amount of airtime on public television, radio and electronic media to be allocated to all the participating political parties and independent candidates.

Among the reliefs sought by Imenda is a court declaration that the decision made by the Commission is neither anchored on nor is it authorised by any provision of legislation that govern its establishment and operations.

He stated further that the Ministry of Health, through the Zambia National Public Health Institute, has already put in place various

Statutory Instruments and public health guidelines to contain the upsurge.

Imenda said Ministry of Health guidelines did not entail the carte blanche banning of campaign rallies during the campaign period.

He added that public schools, churches and bars were still very much open with the members of the public enjoying their fundamental freedoms of association and assembly while observing the COVID-19 guidelines.

Imenda also said the Standard Operating Procedures that the ECZ had devised had no backing from the electoral Act.

He argued that ECZ had given itself powers not conferred on it by the law.

Imenda is therefore seeking, among other reliefs, a declaration that ECZ has abrogated its responsibilities.

“…a declaration that the decision of the 1st Respondent to ban Campaign Rallies during the ‘Campaign Period’ leading up to the General Elections scheduled for 12th August, 2021 is capricious and without authority of law,” submitted Imenda. “An order of certiorari to remove into the High Court for the purposes of quashing the said decision of the 1st Respondent to ban Campaign Rallies during the ‘Campaign Period’ leading up to the General Elections scheduled for 12th August, 2021; a declaration that the 1st Respondent has abrogated its responsibility under Section 8 of the Electoral Code of Conduct to prescribe airtime to all public television, radio and print media for the benefit of all participating political parties and independent candidates for the forthcoming national polls scheduled for the 12th August, 2021…”

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