‘UPND’s Mweetwa filed out of time’

THE ELECTORAL Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is playing double standards when it refused to accept General Education Minister, John Phiri’s nomination papers because of being late when the same commission received and processed nomination papers from the opposition United Party for National Development candidate Cornelius Mweetwa who filed after the 15:00 hours deadline in Choma  constituency.

This is Dr Phiri’s argument in a petition he has filed for the restoration of the court action in the Constitution Court against ECZ.

He has said while the matter in Choma was resolved administratively, his situation remained unchanged as his nomination papers for Lundazi Central constituency remained rejected.

Last week, Dr Phiri commenced legal action against the ECZ for refusing to receive and process his nomination papers for the Lundazi  seat because he was out of time, but withdrew the law suit immediately after lodging it.

“That I commenced these proceedings in this matter and was persuaded by the fact that the matter would have been resolved administratively.

“That I am surprised the respondents have refused to review my situation administratively despite the assurance that once the matter is withdrawn, they will attend to it,” he said.

Dr Phiri explained that his rights were being violated and that he was being discriminated against because he was a Cabinet minister.

He explained that while the ECZ returning officer in Lundazi Central refused to accept and process his nomination papers, his colleague in Choma Central constituency reopened the nomination centre to allow the UPND candidate to file in and processed his papers.

Dr Phiri said the returning office in Lundazi was under instructions from the ECZ director who insisted that the centre should not reopen.

“That I am advised that the Electoral Commission of Zambia must act judiciously and fairly and that the rules must be applied equally to all the participants.

“That I am also to believe that if the returning officer in Choma Central was at liberty to reopen the nomination centre, then the Lundazi Central nomination returning officer equally should have been empowered to reopen the nomination centre,” he said.

He said ECZ returning officers should be at liberty to reopen the nomination centres to allow nominations to go on uninterrupted.

And Dr Phiri explained that there were serious confrontations between Patriotic Front (PF) cadres and supporters of independent candidates who had just resigned from the ruling party, to which he was advised by the returning officers that for security reasons, they would call him for his nomination.

He charged that he remained at the nomination centre from 15.00 hours to 22.00 hours but the returning officer insisted that he was late and so could neither receive nor process his nomination papers.

Dr Phiri in his petition has demanded that ECZ reverses its decision to reject his papers and process his nomination papers for the Lundazi until after the courts have decided on the matter.

In his earlier application, he challenged the constitutionality of the decision by the ECZ to reject his candidacy that it was unconstitutional, illegal and a violation of his rights as a Zambian citizen.

He submitted that the courts should order ECZ to receive and process his nomination papers to enable him contest the parliamentary seat.

Dr Phiri argued that his turning up late was because he was advised to allow time for other candidates to complete the nomination process before he could lodge in his papers.

He had explained that there was nothing in the Zambian Constitution or the Electoral Act that barred his lodging in of nomination papers after the 15:00 hours deadline.

He said there was no regulation on the time before which candidates could file in nominations and if there was, such regulation could not be superior to the provisions of the Republican Constitution.