Lusaka – The political opposition in Zambia is up in arms after President Edgar Lungu this week banned rallies ahead of the August 12 general election.
The ban was imposed as a COVID-19 control measure, with the Head of State and Government and health authorities warning about the need to guard against a possible third wave of the pandemic.
Zambia has recorded more than 93,000 cases and 1,200 deaths since the pandemic started last year.
President Lungu – whose own Patriotic Front is also affected by the ban – said parties should campaign virtually or go door-to-door, while observing health protocols.
“The situation in India of escalated numbers of COVID-19 cases and loss of life, as it has been reported, was as a result of political rallies and we must surely learn from that,” President Lungu said as he launched his presidential election campaign.
“There is a rise in the number of COVID-19 cases and it is irresponsibility of the highest order if we, the political leaders, invited multitudes to super-spreader events such as what we witnessed last week during some of my opponent’s filing of their nominations. I hope that is the last time that we shall see such irresponsibility”
But opposition Movement for Multiparty Democracy spokesperson Ms Elizabeth Chitika said: “Let them walk the talk. Why should they say we cannot have political rallies when they themselves are meeting in multitudes; what is good for the PF should be good for all of us and they should lead by example, otherwise those are double standards.”
People’s Alliance for Change leader Mr Andyford Banda weighed in: “How can someone ban rallies when he is holding rallies?”
He, however, agreed that there was need to use campaign strategies that did not fuel the spread of the novel coronavirus.United Party for National Development spokesperson Mr Anthony Bwalya said they would defy the directive, claiming it was instituted to tilt the playing field in favour of the ruling party.