Don’t gag ECZ – FODEP

The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) was not under any obligation to respect a letter from the Judiciary instructing it to reject nominations from candidates whose parliamentary election had previously been nullified, the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) has observed.

FODEP executive director MacDonald Chipenzi said the letter from the Judiciary from public relations officer Terry Musonda was neither a court judgment nor an order and therefore could not have been an instruction to ECZ.

Mr Chipenzi told the Daily Nation that it was inevitable for the electoral body to have postponed the nominations for the Petauke, Malambo and Mulobezi constituencies because of the acrimonious way the Patriotic Front (PF) was dealing with the matter.

Mr Chipenzi said the PF had exerted extensive pressure on the ECZ and that it was worrying that the Commission had succumbed to the dictates of the ruling party even when the law was clearly on its side on the disqualification of candidates.

He said the ECZ had developed cold feet after it had earlier announced that it was going to accept the nominations from Dora Siliya of Petauke, Maxwell Mwale of Malambo and Hastings Sililo of Mulobezi because the trio were eligible to recontest their seats.

He explained that the acrimony that surrounded the adoption and nominations of opposition candidates by the PF was worrying because it appeared that the ruling party was scared of suffering yet another humiliating defeat after it lost three of the last four by-elections.

Mr Chipenzi explained that it was democratically correct for the opposition candidates to have taken the matter to court for review because that was the only way to settle the confusion that had been created by the misinterpretation of the law by certain sections of the media.

The FODEP chief said he was hopeful that the courts would be able to interpret the cited electoral laws for all the concerned parties because democracy should at all times be protected.

“The Electoral Commission of Zambia was not under any obligation to respect the letter written to it to reject the nominations from Dora Siliya, Maxwell Mwale and Hastings Sililo. That was not a court judgment neither was it an order for ECZ to have taken the action it took. It is undeniable that ECZ officers have been put under extreme pressure by the executive and even when they were on the right path by announcing that the three were eligible, they eventually developed cold feet and got the instruction through a letter from the Judiciary,” Mr Chipenzi said.

He said there was no way the Judiciary could have usurped the authority of the Supreme Court and issue instructions to the ECZ to implement what would have been an illegality at law by barring candidates who had not criminal record and had never been convicted.

Mr Chipenzi has advised the ruling party to follow the rule of law in dealing with constitutional matters stating that it was politically incorrect to interpret the law for the sake of expediency.

There had been a scheme by the ruling party to attempt to technically knock out strong opposition candidates from participating in the September 5th by-elections and in a move that was unprecedented, the Judiciary through a statement nullified the election of Mutolo Phiri of Chipata Central and Misheck Mutelo of Lukulu West and barred Ms Siliya of MMD, UPND’s Maxwell Mwale and Hastings Sililo.