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Church Leaders in Zambia Want Perpetrators of Violence at By-Election Prosecuted

Logo Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG). Credit: CCMG

Representatives of Church leaders in Zambia under the auspices of the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) have expressed concern about the violence witnessed during the recently held Kabwata Constituency by-election.

In a statement over the weekend, CCMG officials say they took note of violent incidents before and during the February 3 Kabwata Constituency polls.

They particularly note "with concern" three incidents of violence, which involved The United Party for National Development (UPND) members as perpetrators while Patriotic Front (PF) members were victims in two incidents. 

In the third incident, the leadership of CCMG says a community member was a victim of the UPND initiated violence as well as a case where campaigners used inflammatory and insulting language.  

“These acts violate the Electoral Code of Conduct and CCMG calls on the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Police to investigate all acts of politically motivated violence and punish the perpetrators,” CCMG officials say in their Saturday, February 5 statement.

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The church leaders who include representatives of the Zambia Conference of Catholic Bishops (ZCCB) and Caritas Zambia call on the leadership of UPND and PF “to immediately take disciplinary action against those members responsible for these acts and for all political parties to ensure that members found perpetrating violence or other violations of the Code face consequences.”

They call upon law enforcement agencies to act "quickly and transparently" in investigating allegations of violence and ensure that the perpetrators are dealt with in accordance with the law. 

In their statement, the representatives of church leaders in Zambia say they also noted a case of electoral malpractice where a voter was allowed to cast a ballot without the required documents. 

They further say there was a "very low" voter education ahead of the election that had been initially scheduled for January 20.

To address some of the electoral issues, members of the independent and nonpartisan election observer say there is need to put more effort into civic education. 

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They urge the media, Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) and the District Voter Education Committees (DVEC) “to increase their efforts in future elections to provide accessible information to all voters, with a particular focus on marginalized groups and including information on COVID-19 mitigation measures.”

“Voter education remains a key component of the electoral process to enhance citizen’s participation in the electoral process," CCMG officials emphasize in their February 5 statement. 

They encourage CSOs "to increase sensitization efforts on COVID-19 prevention, including mitigation measures for political and electoral activities in order to enhance compliance by stakeholders participating in electoral processes." 

ECZ moved the Kabwata polls to February 3 after one of the contestants, Libanda Francis, withdrew from the race. 

The Electoral Commission officials invoked Article 52(6) of the Zambian Constitution, which calls on the electoral body to cancel an election when a candidate withdraws, dies, becomes disqualified for corruption or malpractice or where a court bars a contestant from participating in an election. 

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On January 13, officials of the Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) said the cancellation of the election that had been slated for January 20  because a candidate had withdrawn from the race was a justifiable reason for Zambia to review its Constitution

“It is with great concern the continued existence of ambiguities with regard to the current constitution, its interpretation, and more specifically, in this case, the weaknesses of Zambia’s electoral processes,” JCTR officials said. 

They added, “It is a known fact that with the current electoral legal framework, Zambia’s political system remains vulnerable to inconsistencies and unnecessary wastage of public resources.”