Lusaka – Zambia has stopped public election campaigning in selected areas due to a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and political violence ahead of the August 12 general election.
This week, the Electoral Commission of Zambia stepped in after violent clashes between supporters of the ruling Patriotic Front and opposition United Party for National Development by banning physical campaigns in the capital Lusaka and three districts.
Chief electoral officer Mr Patrick Nshindano banned road shows and limited door-to-door campaign teams to three people. Parties will be allowed to use one vehicle mounted with a public address system.
Last month, President Edgar Lungu barred all parties – including his own Patriotic Front – from holding rallies because of the surge in COVID-19 cases.
Both the PF and the UPND decried the electoral body’s decision to halt and/or limit campaigning in Lusaka, Namwala, Mpulungu and Nakonde.
Patriotic Front secretary-general Mr Davies Mwila said, “The decision against PF is unjust because PF is actually a victim of the UPND reign of terror and violence.”
He said UPND supporters had gone on a rampage, burning vehicles and beating up people.
“The Electoral Commission of Zambia should punish the perpetrator and not the victims of political violence,” Mr Mwila added. “We also want to register our utmost disappointment and displeasure with the manner in which the Zambia Police have been handling the issue of political violence.”
UPND secretary-general Batuke Imenda also hit back: “The PF knows they have already lost elections and would want to stop (opposition party leader) Hakainde Hichilema and the UPND from campaigning at all cost.”
Sixteen candidates are eyeing the presidency on August 12, including the incumbent, making it the largest field to contest the post in Zambia’s history.