By Mwansa Musanse
In order to put election rigging in context, it is important to understand what it means. Rigging an election entails arranging an election in a dishonest manner by taking an unfair advantage over one’s opponents in order to almost guarantee a desired result or predetermined result.
Election rigging, therefore, refers to winning an election in a dishonesty manner so that the result of the election is not a credible expression of the will of the people and cannot pass the free and fair test thus resulting in the loser not accepting the result. There are already indicators that the Zambian elections are being rigged by the ruling Party on basis of the information which is publicly available. The PF must be using “ The Hand Book of stealing elections.”
There is a superficial understanding among the public that election rigging happens only on the day of voting, during counting and tabulation of votes. It is this fallacy that President Edgar Lungu and PF Secretary General, Davies Chama have been projecting to the public by assuring them they will be no rigging of the election as Electoral Commission of Zambia is independent. In a radio interview with QTV, Mr. Chama challenged the public to point out at what stage the election will be rigged.
It should be noted that the reality in modern day methods of rigging is that the theft of an election is a done as process and not an event. It is complex ,sophisticated and starts from voter registration, election campaign period, voting day, vote counting, vote transmission and vote tabulation. This article does answer Mr. Chama’s question and demonstrates that his party is already engaged in election rigging based on the actions that the PF administration has already taken and is still implementing.
The PF administration has unleashed a multi- dimensional rigging strategy which has never been seen in this country’s history and is not apparent to the naked eye and this analysis exposes some of it. There is , however, a question mark whether it the strategy will succeed if Zambian people have made up their minds as such strategies have failed in Senegal and Nigeria if the opposition do their home work.
The reported registration of foreign voters by the Post Newspaper is undoubtedly an act of rigging which cannot be denied and if not corrected, it will cast a cloud over the results of the election if the ruling Party wins the election as they are in charge of the government machinery.
Public Media abuse
The principles of free and fair elections entail that all voices are heard. There is lack of objectivity by the public media and the ZNBC, Daily Mail and Times of Zambia are bias towards the ruling Party. This is unfair and does entails rigging as the there is no level playing field and the opposition are denied to communicate their message to the electorate. The ZNBC also refuses certain adverts of the opposition.
The stifling and intimidation of the private press as evidenced by storming of news room by PF cadres without condemnation by the ruling Party and President is clear evidence of influencing the result of the election. The abuse of the ZRA through carrying out an ill timed tax audit and coming out with a bill demanded to be paid immediately resulting in the closure of the Post Newspaper, the only private paper that was giving coverage to the opposition certainly is an assault on press freedom and does constitute rigging.
Interference with Opposition campaign
The cancellation of opposition campaigns is a practice used by dictators to disrupt opposition from passing on their messages. The numerous cancellations of UPND campaign rallies, the storming of campaign offices, the arrest and slapping of frivolous charges on Opposition figures they deem to be a threat, the tearing down of Opposition campaign posters all qualify as pre -voting election rigging.
Violent attacks on Opposition
There is no doubt that although UPND is involved in some violence, most of the violence is perpetrated by the PF cadres and the President’s condemnation of his cadres mute at best and non existence at worst. The violence directed at the main Opposition UPND has resulted in several deaths but the known ones include Grayser Mutapa, Malesu Mukonka and Mapenzi Chibulo. It may be advisable to publish more names so as expose the PF brutality. The PF violence is not surprising as it is coming straight from dictators, Mugabe and Museveni’s Play book who are President Lungu’s best friends
Public order Act and Police brutality
The police application of the public order act has been bias where they have favoured the ruling Party over the Opposition and calls for the police to administer the Public Order Act in accordance with the law and guidance of the Supreme court have been ignored. The Law association of Zambia (LAZ) recently expressed its concern on the degeneration of law and order in Zambia in the run up to the general elections and stated that the ruling Patriotic Front party ,as the party in government, has an additional responsibility to ensure that law and order is maintained by the public law enforcement agencies regardless of the political affiliation or persuasion of the parties involved. The President is on record as encouraging police brutality on the opposition when he personally told a public rally recently that he had summoned all senior police officers to State House and instructed them to deal with the opposition in his words, ‘MUBOMBELEPO PANTU NABA TUMPA SANA’ (deal with them because they have become very stupid).
Zambia has generated into a police state as the following examples given by LAZ show: Firstly, on 1st July 2016 raid of the United Party for National Development (UPND) campaign office by police officers on account of an undisclosed complaint, purportedly from a member of the public. Secondly, on 7th July 2016 police raid on Mipal printers and confiscation of numerous copies of the Post Newspaper.Thirdly, on the 8th July 2016, the police shot at the UPND protestors in Lusaka’s Kanyama and Chawama townships by police officers following the cancellation of UPND rallies in those areas, which led to the regrettable death of the young lady, Mapenzi Chibulo.
Ministers’ continuation in Office
It is not coincidence that President Lungu allowed ministers continued in their offices after dissolution of parliament. This is happening for the first time in Zambia’s 51 years history. Ministers ceased to ministers during election campaigns even under the one Party state. The justification is dishonest as it was meant for Ministers outside cabinet in the new constitution, a clause PF rejected and cheery picked the continuation in office clause. The continuation of ministers in office makes the lection playing field not level and results in ministers using campaign resources for campaigns. The use of resources of the State to tamper with the election process is an old trick used by dictators. It is not surprising that the Minister of Local Government has been accused of engaging in planning election rigging during and after voting by choice of election officers in districts. There is no that doubt ministers will be giving instructions to civil servants in favour of ruling Party! If this is does not qualify for election rigging, then one wonders what will do.
President Lungu’s “ Gifts”
President Lungu has all of sudden become a father Christmas several months before the actual Christmas in December. The President has been giving out “ loans” to selected marketers, cancelled water bills owed to councils on the Copperbelt, he has allowed football fans to enter stadiums free of charge when he is attending matches on the Copperbelt. During the recent trade fair, people were allowed in free of charge. Miners in Luanshya were given land. Party Cadres in Lusaka were also allocated land in Lusaka West belonging to the Intelligence services. The timing of all these “ Gifts” does raise questions and in my many people’s books can qualify for political corruption. This is part of rigging. The Electoral Commission of Zambia has been just quiet this practice in an election year!
It is clear from the above examples that the PF administration is already engaged in election rigging and who ever will come to Zambia as election observers should not only focus on the event which is the voting, counting and tabulation but rather also the process before they can declare the Zambian election free, fair and credible. The Opposition are also well advised to invest some resources to go to Senegal and Nigeria to learn how those countries prevented the elections to be stolen by the incumbents. The stakes are just too high for Zambia to lose credibility and become a skunk “ democracy” like Zimbabwe and Uganda whose leaders are our President’s mentors!