The Electoral Commission of Zambia wishes to express its disappointment with the comments made by the Justice Minister and Patriotic Front (P.F) Secretary General Mr Wynter Kabimba on 25th July 2013, on the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) National Watch Programme. This is regarding Mr Kabimba’s reaction to the Commission’s position on some aspects of thePatriotic Front (P.F) political advert, which was aired on ZNBC television, on Saturday 20th July, 2013.
The Commission wishes to clearly state that it has no objection to Chiefs being invited to political functions as categorically stated in its Press Release of 22nd July 2013. This is that, while Chiefs may be invited to political functions, they should desist from making partisan statements. The Commission still maintains that the conduct of Paramount Chief Mpezeni of the Ngoni people of Chipata, who featured on the Patriotic Front Advert still remains an abrogation of Article 129 of the Republican Constitution, which states that, ‘ A person shall not while remaining a chief join or participate in partisan politics.’
The Commission viewed the entire advert before issuing the press release. The advert clearly showed Paramount Chief Mpezeni openly campaigning for Mr Mangani during the rally. Paramount Chief Mpezeni specifically asked the audience to support Mr Mangani and further told the audience that even if they had problems with him, they would be able to sit down with Mr Mangani after the 25th July by- elections to resolve any issues.
It is the duty of the Commission under Regulation 7 (i) of the Electoral Code of Conduct to ‘ensure that traditional leaders do not exert undue influence on their subjects to support a particular political party or candidate.’
The Commission is also concerned with the Minister’s comments which alleged that the Commission acted outside its mandate when it cautioned ZNBC on the length of the political advert. The law which provides for the Electoral Code of Conduct is very clear. Section 109 (1) of the Electoral Act provides that; ‘The Electoral Commission shall, in order to promote free, fair and orderly elections, issue by statutory instrument, an Electoral Code of Conduct and any other codes as it may consider necessary.’
According to regulation 17 (1) (a) of the Electoral Code of Conduct, the Commission may ‘reprimand a political party, candidate or stakeholder for any conduct in violation of this Code.’
The Commission therefore acted within its mandate when it cautioned ZNBC on the duration of the P.F political advert.
Further, the Commission is on record of having summoned and reprimanded public media houses for certain productions and publications immediately upon the commencement of the campaign period for the 2011 tripartite elections. In addition, prior to the 2011 tripartite elections, the Commission held a workshop for traditional leaders at Mulungushi International Conference Centre, during which they were appraised on the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Code of Conduct with regard to their role in the electoral process.
The Commission wishes to advise all stakeholders that the Electoral Code of Conduct only comes into effect during the campaign period, which is prescribed by the Commission through a statutory instrument.
The Electoral Code of Conduct is not merely a set of guidelines, but is a law which must be obeyed by all stakeholders.
ELECTORAL COMMISSION OF ZAMBIA
HAILE SELASSIE AVENUE
P.O. BOX 50274