Editor's Comment

The ECZ must now bite

THAT the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has revised Statutory Instrument number 35 of 2020, giving it more powers to expeditiously deal with electoral matters, is not only welcome but long overdue.
The revised SI comes amid concerns from members of the general public over the growing trend of political violence during elections and failure by ECZ to reprimand the perpetrators.
ECZ acting public relations manager Sylvia Bwalya confirmed that the commission has revised the Electoral Code of Conduct following the enactment of Statutory Instrument No.35 of 2020.
This means that the electoral body can now expeditiously enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct which, among other things, provides for disqualification of political parties and candidates who breach the code of conduct.
There has been a growing outcry from various stakeholders that the ECZ was failing in its duties to enforce the Electoral Code of Conduct and hold political players accountable.
This is because politicians and political parties have continued to abrogate the Electoral Code of Conduct by being violent during elections.
Over the years, elections have become synonymous with violence. Some politicians have adopted primitive ways of engaging in politics by perpetuating violence.
People have been injured and in most unfortunate instances lives lost due to political violence.
Journalists and other such impartial stakeholders have time and again been caught up in violence at the hands of political cadres.
While all this has been going on, ECZ has not been seen to crack the whip on erring politicians and political parties.
This is despite the fact that the commission is empowered by the Electoral Code of Conduct to punish or disqualify any politician or political party from the race for causing violence or using any language or engaging in any conduct which leads or is likely to lead to violence or intimidation during an election campaign or election.
Furthermore, the Electoral Code of Conduct does not allow for politicians or cadres to carry or display arms or weapons, traditional or otherwise, of any kind at a political meeting or in the course of any march, demonstration or other public gathering of a political nature.
While the Electoral Code of conduct is very categorical on the expected conduct among political players, there have been some instances where cadres have been spotted with firearms and other weapons.
Some cadres have also gone further to wear military regalia despite this being illegal.
This has turned politics ugly, with many people wondering what lies ahead in the 2021 general elections.
It is, therefore, heartening that ECZ is now empowered to expeditiously deal with violence and be able to mete out punishment within 48 hours.
“Previously the commission did not have enough time to react within the time frame as matters were required to go before the District Conflict Management Committee and the National Conflict Management Committee before they could be tabled before the commission,” according to Mrs Bwalya.
It is good that under the new guidelines, the commission will proceed to hear and determine electoral matters within 48 hours, unlike in the past when this was a challenge, especially for cases that occurred a few days before an election.
“Where the candidate or political party is found to have breached the Electoral Code of Conduct, such a candidate or political party may be liable to disqualification subject to other provisions of the Constitution and other relevant laws,” Ms Bwalya said.
As long as ECZ commits to enforcing the reviewed Electoral Code of Conduct, we are certain that sanity will be restored in Zambia’s politics.
ECZ should therefore send a strong message that it means business by disqualifying anyone found wanting. This will deter many would-be offenders for fear of being knocked out of the race.
We expect ECZ to be proactive in enforcing the Electoral Code of Conduct knowing that Zambians out there depend on it to bring civility back into Zambia’s politics.
ECZ has no excuse now but to act against violence perpetrators.

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