With a day to go before Zambia holds presidential and parliamentary elections on 11 August - political violence, voter intimidation and claims of police bias towards the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) are on the increase.
Fear has gripped the opposition with leaders advising their supporters not to wear party regalia.
At a venue packed with the United Party for National Development’s (UPND) supporters, that had some even standing outside the venue, the writer expected the chanting of slogans and songs in support of the party leader, but this was not the case. Those standing outside were on the lookout for PF supporters who could attack them at any time. Their party leadership was also cautious. When walking into the venue they chanted their party sloganssotto voceto avoid attracting attention from outside for fear of being attacked by PF’s members.
UPND has since launched Operation Watermelon to safeguard the lives of its supporters allowing them to wear PF campaign material, which is represented by the colour green while knowingly supporting UPND whose colour is red.
UPND has defended Operation Watermelon by saying it is 100 per cent peaceful and designed to offer its supporters protection by allowing them to wear ruling PF’s regalia while voting UPND.
UPND Secretary Stephen Katuka added that its supporters need not fear because their vote is their choice and their secret.
However, President Edgar Lungu has described the plan as evil and aimed at causing havoc in the nation.
Mulenga Sata, who is contesting under the UPND, recently advised President Lungu to move away from personalised attacks on opposition leaders and focus on what he intends to do for Zambians if they vote him back into power.
He added that Zambians are looking for social, economic and development change and empowerment.
Sata noted that there is a need to completely amend Zambia’s constitution to allow for total separation of power.
Sata added that the constitution still allows the republican President to appoint all the police chiefs and other law enforcement agents including the High Court Judges, which could compromise the integrity of their work and office.
He stated that there is also a need to enforce the freedom of expression.
Sata disclosed that the election violence has really impacted negatively on the party’s campaigns.
Political Analyst Dante Saunders has charged that the ruling PF has repeatedly abused the Public Order Act (POA).
The POA is a law inherited from Britain, which ruled Zambia before it became independent in 1964. The law states that individuals must notify the police at least seven days in advance if they wish to hold a public meeting.
A later clause allows for the arrest and imprisonment of those taking part in a public meeting that was not granted a permit.
Saunders noted that this and many other inconsistencies make the POA “a bad law in a democratic nation”.
Meanwhile, the Electoral Commission of Zambia has threatened to disqualify any leader of a political party found to be fanning violence ahead of the 11 August elections.