STATEMENT FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE KATUBA BY- ELECTION – by OYV
After considering the reports of the monitors both stationed in specific polling stations and streams and also those that were roving from one polling station to the other, Operation Young Vote is obliged to make this statement with regards to the issues that characterized the Katuba by election.
1. Nomination Day:
One issue to which all political parties should pay attention so much is their readiness to have their candidate successfully nominated within their allocated time on the schedule. It was observed that some “big” parties were at pains to mobilise (organize on the material day) the nine (9) registered voters to support their candidate as required by law when reminded by the election officials. What was more shocking was that the entire senior party officials came in numbers at the nomination centre while forgetting the critical and necessary nine (9) supporters to back their candidate. Further, the preparedness of the political parties generally and candidates particularly leaves a lot to be desired especially that these are the people aspiring for serious positions in public office. Some parties and candidates took longer periods in the nomination centre than usual due to the fact that they were not prepared (either by not having their documentation together and in order or not having their nine – 9 supporters readily available among others).
Operation Young Vote is of the considered view that the much as there was tranquillity during this day in Katuba, some pockets of confrontation and finger pointing which could easily degenerate into violence were observed in that each party/candidate was given a specific time (for instance the MMD/Holmes Cecil was slated to do their nomination at
14:00 hours while at that time ABZ/Patricia Mwashingwele was still in the polling station and those that followed them, the PF/Moses Chilando was preparing to come).
2. Pre-Election Campaigns:
The pre-election period that ran between the dates of nominations of candidates and the day before the polls (at 18:00 hours) was basically peaceful and calm. Political parties and candidates conducted their campaigns in cordial atmospheres as they canvased for support. However, it is worth noting here that the ugly face of violence showed itself when the president of the National Revolution Party (NRP) Cosmo Mumba was lynched by cadres from other political parties. This is unacceptable if peace and tranquillity are to be cornerstones of democracy.
The major rallies and campaign meetings to drum up support for the respective candidates conducted by the leaders (Presidents) of the political parties who included President Dr Nevers Mumba of the Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD), President Fr. Frank Bwalya of the Alliance for a Better Zambia (ABZ), President Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND), National
Restoration Party (NAREP), Cosmo Mumba of the National Revolution Party (NRP), the
United National Independence Party (UNIP) and President Michael Sata of the Ruling Patriotic Front (PF) party were in some cases marred with personality attacks as opposed to issue based campaigns. Other matters of concern noted during the said campaign rallies/meetings among others were:
_ Hate Speech by some people given opportunities to address audiences;
_ Transporting of cadres that never added value to the meetings but rather intimidated those perceived to be holding divergent views;
_ Rented crowds from outside the Katuba Constituency aimed at deceiving members of the public that they (parties) are able to woe supporters in numbers when in actual sense not; and
_ The resurfacing of the ugly face of violence in different parts of the constituency here the NRP President Cosmo Mumba was lynched by the suspected opposition cadres.
3. Accreditation of Local Monitors and International Observers:
The accreditation of local monitors and international observers including the political party agents was well conducted by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ). While in the initial stage the ECZ had wanted all stakeholders to present themselves in person for accreditation (with the view that portraits of the monitors, observers and agents be embedded on the cards), the stakeholders felt this would not be in their interest as it would have been costly to transport monitors and political party agents to and fro accreditation centre from distant villages. Upon discussion and consultation with stakeholders the ECZ was quick to listen to the concerns of the stakeholders and allowed names of would be monitors, observers and political party agents to be sent through their respective organization and parties without the actual individuals travelling in person.
OYV would like to applaud the ECZ for this step as this helped the stakeholders deploy at all polling stations and streams but more so that the presence of the monitors, observers and agents enhanced the transparency of the polls.
4. Poll Day:
The Election Day was relatively calm.
4.1 Opening of Polling Stations:
The polling stations opened at 06:00 hours and closed at 18:00 hours as stipulated in the law.
4.2 Election Materials and Officials:
The election materials were adequately delivered by the ECZ while the Election Officials were also in their adequate numbers. The voting materials (Ballot Papers, Voting Booths, Ink, etc. were not in short supply). It was observed that the Electoral Officials/Staff at the polling stations were adequately deployed.
4.3 Security at Polling Stations:
Security by the Zambia Police was at hand at every polling station. At least one uniformed police officer was seen at each polling station. The numbers of the police officers varied from polling station to polling station. A good number of police officers were deployed and camped at the collation centre and they were readily available when duty and reinforcement was required in the polling stations. It must be noted that the police acted swiftly as soon as they were called upon to quell any confrontation/confusion and/or violence in the constituency. Operation Young Vote would further like to commend the police for not carrying weapons such as guns and others like riot gear as such would have negative impact on the voters such as intimidating them from casting their vote.
4.4 Conduct of the Polls:
The proceedings on the poll day were cordial, well-coordinated and transparency was observed in the Election Officials, Monitors, the electorate and other stakeholders alike. There was transparency in the manner the elections were conducted. Among some of the pertinent issues that need attention in relation to the monitoring and observation done by OYV are:
_ Some voters carrying either own voters’ card and other person’s National
Registration Card (NRC) or vice versa;
_ A relatively good number of voters not marking in the space provided (ending up marking on the candidate’s face, name or party symbol) and the use of wrong mark to vote (not using the recommended X mark);
_ Continuous roving around polling stations by government officials (District Commissioner) and OP personnel;
_ Some political party agents not sure which parties they represented (i.e. ABZ officials claimed some party agents were their all to be denied by the same agents inside the polling station that they represented NAREP);
_ Some Presiding Officers not sure about the procedure of counting the votes at the close of the polls; and
_ Violence perpetrated by PF cadres that scared away voters.
4.5 Counting of the Votes:
The counting process which followed the close of the polls (polls closed at exactly 18:00) was peaceful. In most polling stations the Presiding Officers clearly knew and understood the process of counting whereas in one or two streams Presiding Officers seemed not to understand the process. This resulted in arguments with some political party agents.
4.5.1 Collation of Results:
The collation of the results from the 32 polling stations in Katuba Constituency proceeded smoothly. No PF members and cadres were present at the collation centre as the defeat was clearly seen from the polling stations. Discontentment crept in among the UPND cadres and leaders when it was clear that the three polling stations (Namayani, Mboshya and Kawenjiba) which were “hard to reach” (could only have their “official” results) available brought after 06:00 AM the following day after the Helicopter had gone to transport then. Anxiety and suspicion grew especially that the political party cadres including those from UPND had come back way before 22:00 hours on the poll day with signed election results. The continued delay of the delivery of the results from the three polling stations further irritated the UPND who almost descended on the media personnel, Returning Officer and other ECZ officials who included the Deputy Director – Civic and Voter Education – Ms Mubita, the Monitors from Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) who tried to offer an understanding. The misunderstanding among the UPND cadres swelled to the point of almost lynching each other. Not only was it unfortunate that the results had delayed to come in but the behaviour by some cadres from UPND also.
4.5.2 Declaration of the Winner:
The declaration of the winner of the Katuba by election Mr Jonas Shakafuswa though delayed due to the delay in the transportation of the results from the three polling stations was done according to the law.
The Katuba by election was a litmus test for the all political parties that participated but more so for the ruling PF as this was a measure on whether the PF was still the party of the people’s liking or not.
The ECZ did its best to prepare and conduct the elections in Katuba and must be commended by all progressive electoral stakeholders and citizens in general. What the ECZ needs to do so as to improve for the future elections is to ensure that the official are well acquainted with all the procedures during an election especially the counting process where OYV Monitors noted challenges among the polling officials.
OYV would like to put it on record and encourage all political parties to adopt and field local persons in the future by elections. This would not only ensure that locals begin to take charge of development within their areas but also allow the much needed and inevitable process of decentralization to flourish. This would further bring to the fore the people and leaders who will remain within their constituencies after their election as opposed to having a situation where leaders run away from their constituents. It is wrong and misleading to insinuate tribalism on UPND when some parties imposed candidates on the people of Katuba.
OYV is of the considered view that the electoral malpractices that marred the Katuba by elections compromised the freeness, fairness and credibility of the elections. The 32.8% voter turn-out is cause to worry for every Zambian, especially that democracy is about numbers and that our young democracy has to be nurtured into progression and not retrogression. It is very sad that only 9481 voters out of the registered over 28900 cast their votes. This kind of apathy is unacceptable and must motivate all stakeholders to campaign to overcome it.
However, OYV is of the conclusion that the outcome and results of the elections is reflection of the will and aspiration of the people of Katuba.
Guess Nyirenda (Mr)