From STEVEN MVULA in Livingstone
MINISTER of Justice Wynter Kabimba says the people running the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) are a danger to democracy and has called for a new crop to run the institution charged with conducting elections in the country.
This follows similar sentiments from Home Affairs minister Edgar Lungu, who said the ECZ were biased following the cancellation of nominations of by-elections for the Malambo, Petauke and Mulobezi constituencies.
The nominations were cancelled on Friday against the backdrop of a Judiciary statement on Thursday that candidates, who were found guilty of corruption, cannot be allowed to stand in the by-elections. The Judiciary’s position threw the opposition’s campaign in disarray as the MMD were to field Dora Siliya and the UPND were to field Maxwell Mwale, both of them having lost their seats after being found guilty of electoral malpractices.
The UPND seat in Mulobezi held by Mr Hastings Sililo was also nullified in court on similar account.
The ECZ said on Friday that the Judiciary had not notified them on the eligibility of some individuals to contest the three seats.
But Mr Kabimba yesterday said the issue of candidates whose seats were nullified because of corruption should not have come this far had the ECZ done its duty.
The minister, who is also Patriotic Front (PF) secretary general, said: “I would like to agree with our chairperson for legal affairs Edgar Lungu that the ECZ is now a danger to democracy and is not taking the fight against corruption seriously.”
Mr Kabimba said it is now very clear that the ECZ is abusing its mandate to promote democracy.
“The ECZ is undermining democracy. This debate [of nullified seats] has been raging for the last two weeks and one expected that the institution charged with managing our elections should have shown leadership,” he said.
Mr Kabimba said the ECZ’s action to postpone the filing of nominations at the last minute showed gross irresponsibility and disregard for democracy.
He said political parties spent huge resources to go to nomination centres.
Mr Kabimba said as Minister of Justice and PF chief executive officer, he sees need for a crop of new people at ECZ.
“The idea of having recycled people to manage our elections is not good at all. They are not liable to the Zambian people,” he said.
Mr Kabimba said Zambians deserve an ECZ which is responsible and has the interests of them at heart.
He said the PF stands on the principle of fighting corruption and Article 65 of the constitution as well as Section 22 and 104 of the Electoral Act are clear on corruption during elections.
“We expect the ECZ and other agencies to fight the culture of corrupt regimes but it is clear they don’t value the fight we have embarked on,” Mr Kabimba said.
Mr Kabimba said the fight against corruption has been left to the PF alone.
He said there is a danger of corrupt elements re-grouping so that they run the country again.
He said all the PF government wants is a competent and impartial ECZ.
“We want ECZ to serve Zambians and not the PF. What we want are democratic elections which are not smeared with corruption,” he said.
Mr Kabimba said the PF is not seeking any favour from ECZ just like it did not in 2011.
“When we say there is need for a new crop of people at ECZ, we are not seeking their favour. We want them to act responsibly to the Zambian people,” he said.
The Justice minister said if the PF regime did not want the people at ECZ, it would have removed them long ago.
“We found these people at ECZ. They were appointed and ratified by the MMD. If we didn’t want them, we would have removed them immediately we won,” Mr Kabimba said.
He said there was no need for the ECZ to have waited for the Judiciary on matters that are clear at law.