According to the Collins Dictionary, an election is “a process in which people vote to choose a person or group of people to hold an official position”.
And the USAID Democracy, Human Rights and Governance manual adds that, “The most fundamental principle defining credible elections is that they must reflect the free expression of the will of the people. To achieve this, elections should be transparent, inclusive, and accountable, and there must be equitable opportunities to compete in the elections…Elections and other political processes are pivotal to the quality of the country’s governance and can either greatly advance or set back a country’s long term democratic development… The electoral cycle approach depicts elections as a continuous, integrated process made up of building blocks that interact with and influence each other, rather than a series of isolated events.”
In November 2019, during his only interaction with the media at State House, Edgar Lungu justified the clamping down on opposition’s mobilisation, saying there was time for campaigns or politicking. He said in between elections it was not a season for political campaigns, but a time for the government to work. During this same interaction, Lungu was asked if the country was under any threat to national security for his government to be stopping the opposition from mobilising. But Edgar stressed that parties were not going to be campaigning when the country could do other things.
“Are you sure we should be campaigning from 2016 to 2021? I tend to think that sometimes it calls for common sense! You can mobilise, yes somehow, as a political party but are we going to have the frenzy that goes with campaigns during the last three months or six months of elections? Don’t we have a season when we can do these things? Let’s focus on things which matter and things which matter now, is the economy, the wellbeing of this country. Once in a while, yes, you can go and hold a public meeting,” said Edgar. “But what I’m seeing in Zambia is that we like having fun. It can’t be fun, fun, fun all the time. There are times when you say ‘let’s go and work.’ So, for me, is the police not in order to allow these gatherings become a norm? They are perfectly within their right but there is nothing to stop you from holding a public meeting, if you feel like. But speaking for myself, I would rather focus on serious issues by going out there to do some work as opposed to galvanising political support from 2016 to 2021. When are we going to work?”
And now with barely a month to the polls, Edgar has employed both the public order Act and the two COVID-19 Statutory Instruments to bar his competitors from reaching the electorate when he himself is all over canvassing for votes for an unconstitutional third time – under the veil of inspecting developmental projects or tour of such and such province.
Equally, we have noted that Vice-President Inonge Wina is also ‘inspecting’ developmental projects. A few days ago, whilst in Shesheke/Mwandi, upon disembarking from a ZAF plane, we observed that among the developmental projects Inonge ‘inspected’ was ‘project Iris Kaingu’ and then after traditional leaders.
We recall too well a famous song by Edgar and his minions of having stopped funding new projects – that his government would only finance projects that were 80 per cent and above. Those below the 80 per cent threshold were to be re-scoped. And we all know that Iris Kaingu, the Mwandi PF parliamentary candidate, is a ‘new project’. And if Inonge on a so-called official tour can meet and ‘inspect project’ Iris which in essence is electioneering for her, then all the other 15 presidential contestants and their running mates should now be motivated to go inspect their projects – in parliamentary, mayoral/council chairperson, and councillor candidates so that they can assess their level of advancement and seek either to re-scope or fully lobby for donor support; in this case a vote from the electorates.
Equally, we saw Edgar touring Mtendere and Bauleni markets in Lusaka, yet the ECZ has banned roadshows and door-to-door campaigns that involve more than three people. But as Edgar toured Mtendere he was thronged by multitudes. What does he do, he dished out boxes of face masks and hand sanitisers, among other items!
In itself a premeditated move.
Since elections are a competition that demand fairness, the opposition should be motivated to visit these markets and distribute face masks, sanitisers and any other material to help in combating COVID-19 in the same manner the PF is doing. Also, the opposition has always been challenged to provide effective checks and balances and not just complaining or being crybabies. While strictly observing COVDI-9 guidelines, the opposition must be motivated to also visit the developmental projects that Edgar is touring or ‘inspecting’ including chiefs, so that they can critique or offer their opinion on those public infrastructures.
For Edgar and Inonge to be campaigning while disguising their activities as official presidential tours/duties is nothing but being mischievous. This election is a serious matter that will define the destiny of our country given where we are today!
The electorate needs to make an informed choice. You cannot gag the opposition when it’s an open season for the ruling PF. That is utter abuse of the power of incumbency. And Edgar, under the aegis of a docile Electoral Commission of Zambia, is making the August 12 elections a sham.
Either we all observe the COVDI-19 protocols or open the stadium for all to participate in the game.