It is clear that there is an attempt by the Patriotic Front to manipulate the electoral process and give itself another term of office.
It is beyond dispute that foreign nationals, from across our borders, have been recruited by the Patriotic Front and its agents to register as voters in Zambia. This newspaper has enough evidence to show that villagers on the other side of our borders have been registered as voters in Zambia. And this is not hearsay but matters that we ourselves have followed up across the borders. We have interviewed foreign nationals who have registered as voters in Zambia.
But this is not a story we started today. It is a story we started following up last December. Our correspondent in Chipata, Peter Sukwa, and his colleague from Feel Free FM Mike Tembo, were nearly killed for following up this story. They had picked up information that the Patriotic Front was ferrying villagers from across the border in Malawi to come and register as voters in Zambia. When Peter and Mike were discovered, they were badly beaten by the agents of the Patriotic Front involved in that exercise. An attempt was even made to burn Peter alive. A Patriotic Front agent, after failing to burn Peter alive because they had no matchsticks, urinated in his mouth. Peter, according to doctors, was left with “a perforated tympanic membrane in the right ear as he could no longer hear”. Why would one want to kill a journalist in that way? For what? Our lead story of yesterday reveals why there was an attempt by agents of the Patriotic Front to kill Peter and Mike.
Looking at how many foreign nationals across our borders have been registered as voters in Zambia, a number of questions arise: how possible was it for the Patriotic Front alone to do it?
We don’t think the Patriotic Front was acting alone in this exercise. There is no way Patriotic Front cadres could have obtained so many national registration cards to issue out to foreign nationals without the co-operation or complicity of the Department of National Registration and the Ministry of Home Affairs in general. It is also almost impossible for Patriotic Front cadres to carry out such an exercise without the knowledge of our country’s intelligence services. It is either the intelligence services of this country were also involved in this exercise or opted to look the other way and allow the Patriotic Front to do as it pleased. They can certainly not plead ignorance and maintain a measure of credibility and reliability as an intelligence service.
It is also difficult to understand why so many new voters, with ages far beyond 18, 23 or 25, were registering as voters for the first time. Where were they all these years? Why were they not taking part in previous elections? The Electoral Commission of Zambia, if it was acting independently and without playing complicity to this criminal behaviour, would have detected that there is something wrong, that something is not right.
But where does this leave the credibility of the Electoral Commission of Zambia and our entire electoral process? Can one really be confident that the August 11 elections will be free and fair, and will produce results that really and truly reflect the will of the people?
If this situation is not properly addressed, the Zambian people will lose confidence in the electoral process. And when this happens, many of them may stay away from voting on August 11. But the lingering danger of voters staying away because of lost confidence in the integrity of our electoral process is not that public offices will go unfilled. Obviously, there will be people who will be voted into office even with very low voter turnouts, by very small percentages of eligible voters. This will bring into question the legitimacy of the government that will emerge from such elections. Such a government will not truly rest upon the consent of the great majority of our people who qualify to vote. It’s a well-known fact that voter apathy can destroy democracy. When voter turnouts drop far below 50 per cent, then we know we are in danger of soon losing our right to remove, without bloodshed, the people who govern us. If those in power are allowed to manipulate the electoral process in this way in order to keep themselves in power for as long as they want, people will lose faith in elections. When this happens, other methods of choosing leaders will be resorted to. And we shouldn’t cheat ourselves that elections are the only way of changing leaders. There is no way an electoral process that is prostituted to falsify the will and the interests of the people in this way can be seen to be the only way for selecting leaders. Other ways will be found. But they will not be ways that are better than through free and fair elections.
It is clear that this is not the first time our brothers and sisters from across our borders are being recruited to participate in our electoral process. It has happened before. But the scale of it this time is too high to be ignored by anyone. They have simply gone too far to be ignored. This is why those who have been close to our country’s electoral process over the last two and half decades are today making a lot of noise about it. This is so because they know what is going on and they don’t seem to like it.
This is not something that Zambians should ignore and just move on. It will kill our elections. Vigilance and more vigilance is needed. Vigilance needs to be heightened to ensure that the Patriotic Front finds it impossible to manipulate the August 11 elections. There is need to mobilise against this attempt by the Patriotic Front to rig this year’s elections. We know that some politicians have reported the matter to the police. Necessary as this may be, it is not enough. The police cannot do anything about this case because those running it are working under the orders of those trying to manipulate the electoral process. In a word, we don’t have an independent and courageous police to take on such a matter. We also don’t have a truly independent judiciary that can be relied on in matters of this nature. Therefore, the only sensible alternative is that of mass action, that of mobilisation and agitation, that of vigilance and more vigilance. This is the only way to stop these attempts at rigging.