Lusaka – The Southern African Development Community will have a virtual deployment of an electoral observation mission for Zambia’s August 12 polls.
Dr Lemogang Kwape, Botswana’s Minister of International Affairs and Co-operation was this week appointed head of the virtual electoral mission, according to a statement by the bloc this week.
The mission will comprise representatives from the SADC Organ Troika – Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe – as well as members of the SADC Electoral Advisory Council with support from the SADC Secretariat.
Virtual stakeholder consultations were scheduled to take place from August 3 to 14.
In the lead up to the general election, there have been increasing reports of poll-related violence.
Last weekend, following the murders of two supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front party, President Edgar Lungu dispatched the military and other security services to assist the police in quelling the violence. As expected, the deployment has attracted mixed reactions.
People’s Alliance for Change president Mr Andyford Banda notes that while the decision was in the interest of promoting an ideal voting environment, it also demonstrated the lack of capacity of the police force to conduct its duties professionally.
“There’s nothing to fear about the presence of so many security personnel because they just want to ensure peace and order, although the situation does not warrant their presence really,” he said.
United Party for National Development media director Ms Ruth Dante said interference in police operations had rendered the service incapable of handling such situations.
“We’ve been vindicated when we say police have been working under orders from the ruling party and that is what has weakened them, they lack professionalism now because they need to answer to senior party individuals and not their calling to protect all citizens without fear or favour, people are killed or beaten but the police have to wait for instructions on who to arrest or indeed reprimand,” she said.
Movement for Multiparty Democracy secretary Ms Elizabeth Chitika added: “The violence is not widespread, these are just isolated cases, so why deploy more security personnel? The police are better placed to do that.”
President Lungu this week told a meeting of traditional leaders that “we’ve deployed the army, ZAF (Zambia Air Force) and National Service, and other security personnel not that there’s war, but to fight violence which is war in itself”.
There have also been concerns about a government ban on large rallies, a decision made in line with COVID-19 control measures but which opposition figures said was an attempt to hamstring their campaigns.
Meanwhile, a Commonwealth group of eminent persons led by former Tanzanian leader Dr Jakaya Kikwete has appealed for free and fair elections.
Ms Patricia Scotland, the Commonwealth Secretary-General, constituted the 14-member team of observers at the invitation of the government of Zambia. An advance group of observers was deployed on July 25 while the rest of the team was expected in Lusaka from August 2.
“As I indicated in my keynote address during the launch of the Coalition for Peaceful Elections in Zambia on 1 July, elections should be an opportunity to engage in political debate over issues and perspectives and not a platform for trading insults and blows,” Ms Scotland said this week.