How can elections be free or fair when…?

It will be impossible to put the 2016 elections behind and focus on 2021 if the issues that gave rise to disputes about them are not cleared away.

It’s not difficult to see that our elections are seriously flawed. How can elections that are directly and indirectly managed by one of the key competitors be free and fair?
The president, his political party and government appoint all members of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. These in turn, and in conjunction with the president or his agents, appoint the director and other senior staff of the Electoral Commission of Zambia. And together with the president and his other appointees, they set the electoral rules and administer the whole electoral process.

It is them and them alone – they appoint the election contest referees and their assistants, match commissioners and so on and so forth. And it is also very important to appreciate the fact that the Electoral Commission of Zambia is a very small unit which on its own cannot manage to run an election. The Electoral Commission of Zambia relies heavily on civil servants in the ministries of local government, home affairs, education, health, agriculture and defence to manage elections. These are people who are directly under the control and direction of those in power. How can we have free and fair elections under such arrangements?
And even when the Electoral Commission of Zambia wanted to do things the right way, it has no control over these civil servants it is using; it can’t discipline them. The Electoral Commission cannot discipline police officers, intelligence officers, military officers and other civil and public servants it is using.

Organising free and fair elections is more important than the result itself. It’s very easy to deal with electoral disputes if elections are well organised and in a free, fair and transparent way. Today, we still have many electoral malpractices from last year’s elections that the Electoral Commission of Zambia cannot explain or resolve. The Electoral Commission has failed to explain the presence of that Ugandan – Samuel Chavula – who was caught at the tallying centre with its entry card and password. He has disappeared and his case is dead.

Decisions about key electoral processes like the printing of ballot papers are made by the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the president and his agents without input from the opposition and other stakeholders. All those who count and tally the votes are selected and engaged by the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the president and his agents. There’s completely no input from the opposition and other stakeholders on this.
Joseph Stalin said, “It is enough that the people know there was an election. The people who cast the votes decide nothing. The people who count the votes decide everything.”

To reduce the possibility of protracted electoral disputes, there’s need to make the electoral process more inclusive and transparent. The appointment of all the commissioners, the director and other key staff of the Electoral Commission of Zambia must be a joint undertaking of all stakeholders. And all providers of election management services like printing of ballot papers, IT to the Electoral Commission of Zambia must be selected with the participation of all key stakeholders.
The consultations that we saw last year were more symbolic than practical and about things that really didn’t matter. And in those meetings, it was not difficult to notice that the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the ruling party and its government were one, were together.

It’s time our politicians realised that winning or losing an election is less important than strengthening the country. To finalise, the purpose of an election is to hear the will of the people, not to fabricate votes.


  • comment-avatar
    ghetto fabulous 6 months

    Only a certifiable idiot believes in democracy. In my opinion I think that all political leaders, past and present. From Ward Councillor to State president need to be dragged out into the street along with their families and everyone in their phone book. They should be whipped using rawhide and salt water whips. This should be done savagely for at least 30 days.

    Someone should beat the living shit out of them till they bleed and lose the ability to stand. Then they should be whipped lying down. ALL of them including their children from ages 1- going upwards. This should be done by people from the compounds and villages. NO MERCY.

    After this all passport must be collected and burned. All NRC’s should be grabbed and burned.

    After this they should be requested to go to parliament and sit and debate REAL issues of Zambia for a month. Midway through the month they should be taken to the streets again and whipped savagely again. Then they should go back and deliberate on what RIGHTS should mean and what laws should be made.

    All females in the group should be exposed each night to street kids who should be instructed to rape them brutally. Then they will start thinking correct and talking to their husbands and brothers and pleading with them for good laws.

    Short of this it would be best to subject to each candidate to the following:

    1. Upon submitting their nomination papers, the wife and children should be placed in a public jail not to benefit anything during their term of office. No education, no Manda hill or arcades.

    2. For 6 years after they leave office, all politicians should spend 3 days of each week in a public prison.

    I think that all presidents should be shot in the head after they complete their term of office. This should happen to their children and wives too.

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    Rasco 6 months

    It is very clear that there shall never be fair and clean elections as long as the LUNGU regime s in power. Zambia as a country need a lot of help from the well established DEMOCRACIES like BRITAIN, FRANCE, USA just to mention a few. There is need to have a complete over-hall of all the personnel involved in the election process. If it is possible the outside countries should handle this process and all ZAMBIANS only to cast votes. In Africa it has just proved that DEMOCRACY is not attainable under whatever circumstance, because the President has such huge powers that the opposition may not manage to control him. Look at what LUNGU did in the previous elections of 2016, he literally bulldozed every part of the law in the so called the highest law of the country- the constitution. Lungu was very sure he was to turn things around no matter what the outcome was to be.

    A lesson has to be taken from KENYA where it took a dedicated Christian Judge to correct the situation. In this regard, I want to call all leaders of Christian fraternity to get full interest in politics, and I do not mean those leaders from the PENTECOSTAL churches who are just as reckless as everyone else, I meant the old churches like the Catholics, The SDA, The Apostolic church. PENTECOSTAL churches have brought corruption and have made some political leaders very corrupt. The Judiciary has really disappointed Zambians. On the face they appear trustworthy, but once you dangle money in their face, they easily change. I had the whole trust in the LADY CHIEF JUSTICE, but alas , what came out was something else. In any case what do you expect when some one was appointed by the same President. It is the cowardice that spoil our CIVIL workers, only if we can have a few brave ones, things would easily change for the better in this country as it happened in KENYA.

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    Bertha Matimba 7 months

    Free and fair elections, without violence/bloodshed, is the most important issue that all opposition leaders need to address now. If not solved, PF will rig votes again in 2021. Be aware that Mr Lungu’s ONLY vision is to remain in power, amass too much wealth, whether Zambians like it or not. Emulating his masters Mugabe, Museveni, Kagame and others.
    Issues to be addressed:
    Ballot papers, not to be printed in Dubai in future (maybe UK) OR to be printed in Zambia.
    All political parties and Catholic Church leaders and other stakeholders to be present to check the whole process up to counting votes.
    Electoral Commission/Board: Equal numbers to represent all parties and Catholic Church leaders, not only PF.
    Electoral Commission: meetings to start before end of 2017 to start planning for 2021 elections.
    All judges/lawyers affiliated to PF not to be allowed to handle any concourt/petition/ or any election related cases in future.
    Opposition parties to enjoy same freedom as PF, to access media ZNBC, all radio stations and newspapers.
    Oposition parties to have freedom of assembly and association, church, party meetings and campaigns same as PF and Police to stop interfering.
    If PF continues to be stubborn, involve the International community especially Commonwealth to monitor politics in Zambia on daily basis.The injustice and no democracy by PF.
    All Zambians we must demand free and fair elections, no violence, no bloodshed in future.
    Is it too much to ask? No. If PF doesn’t like free and fair elections, why not just go? Don’t allow heartless PF leaders to intimidate and toss you around like pieces of paper.

    • comment-avatar
      William 7 months

      Late President Sata came into office cause zambians Rose, for HH will never enter state house, he believes in law which stopped working many years ago. If he did not stop people to wait for law to do it’s part, people were to rise and protest. No matter what measurement they take one is growing roots and free and fair will never happen.The international community come where there is blood shed cause they have seen how pettion has failed to take place but talking about 2021 for what?

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    Chembe 7 months

    This is also my view you cannot treat the symptoms of the disease then you say we forget about the causes. How then do you prevent the re occurrence of that disease? Let us have a rerun of 2016 elections then we can move forward, otherwise the manipulators of the 2016 polls will take it that even the International community okays fraud. This will be disastrous for future generations. There will be no need for elections at all.

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    snodgrass smith 7 months

    Elections are an illusion, anyone that actually believes in politics, politicians and the benevolence of these people, needs their sanity examined.
    The whole process is akin to a woman in the Congo DR choosing whether she wants to be raped and sodomised by a government soldier or a rebel soldier. Either way, she’ll get raped and sodomised.
    Unless you are standing and likely to directly benefit through a parliamentary salary or presidential salary, you are an idiot to support any side.
    All the hullabaloo, women dancing naked, imprisonment of HH, petitions and all manner of bloody stupidy that surrounds politics is for people that believe in that rubbish.
    It is like people that believe in the Bible. If they really knew the origins of the mythology of the Bible, they would be miserable. People should look at the books that were written way before the Bible that have the very same themes and even situations. Virgin birth, three wise men, the crucification and resurrection, the benevolent god figure. Its all just a repeat and in use by whichever people want to use it. Do some fact checking on Horrace vs Jesus for yourself.

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    Mwenda Mbati 7 months

    THERE CAN’T BE 2021 WITHOUT 2016.
    The talk about forgetting the 2016 polls so that we work towards the 2021 polls is unfortunate, unpatriotic, insensitive, cruel and inconsiderate. Does it mean that those who are making these calls don’t know about what happened pre- and post-August 2016 polls? If not, then it is unforgivable. If so, then they need to be reminded about the unprecedented violence, hatred, deaths (Mapenzi Chibulu and others), fraud, disregard for the constitution, massive rigging, etc. that characterized that period. Did those people die in vain, to be forgotten as collateral damage? Are they now assuring us that the same people who perpetrated those atrocities shall not be there in 2021, that they shall somehow disappear into thin air?
    No! We have to resolve the past in order to safeguard the future!!!
    And that can only happen if the following are done immediately:
    1. The ECZ and ConCourt have to be dissolved and reconstituted through parliament.
    2. The judiciary has to be restructured under a new Chief Justice.
    3. The heads of the security units have to be changed.
    4. A rerun of the 2016 elections has to be done and should be supervised by the EU and the Commonwealth.
    It is only after these reforms that the Zambian people shall recognize whoever shall emerge the winner as the legitimate president of Zambia. Even those of us who are not happy with the 2016 results shall have no basis to dispute such credible election results and we shall have no legitimacy in the eyes of the international community for continuing to dispute such results.
    It is very important for election results to be seen as a product of a transparent, credible, just, free and fair electoral process for them to be legitimized. Anything less shall not resolve this impasse and tension in our country. I personally undertake to accept such results regardless of whether my favorite candidate loses or wins but it is the future of my country Zambia which is of paramount importance so that it is safeguarded for our children, grandchildren and posterity. God Save Zambia, God Bless Zambia.