By Derrick Sinjela in Mansa, Luapula Province
UNITED Prosperous and Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ) President Charles Chanda is urging Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Board Chairperson Essau Chulu and Chief Electoral Officer (CEO) Kryticous Patrick Nshindano to facilitate new parliamentary nominations following the demise of Melody Musutu, a Zambians United for Sustainable Development Party (ZUSD) aspirant.
And Lusaka Lawyer Dickson Jere equally backed the call by Mr. Chanda urging the ECZ to do the right thing and call for fresh nominations before time run out to hold the polls on Thursday 12th August 2021, together with the rest of the elections nationwide.
Governance Elections Advocacy and Research Services (GEARS) Executive Director MacDonald Chipenzi asked the electoral body to quickly conduct fresh nominations in the Mandevu constituency following the death Ms. Musutu.
Speaking on Tuesday 22nd June 2021, Mr. Chanda advised both Justice Chulu and Mr. Nshindano to heed the Constitutional requirement on Candidate Nomination by calling fresh nominations as failure to do so is courting electoral petitions.
Following ZUSD’s female candidate, Ms, Musutu died at the University Teaching Hospital (UTH) after a short illness on Monday 21st June 2021, ECZ Corporate Affairs Manager Patricia Luhanga insinuated that the bereaved political party will be allowed to propose a replacement, a decision Chanda argued is at variance with the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 Section 80.
“ECZ avoid being petitioned over something that is clear. Cancel Mandevu Constituency Parliamentary elections and call for fresh nominations. The Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 Section 80 states that in case of a candidate dying, or in an event that the court disqualifies a candidate after nominations but before election day, ECZ shall cancel the election and call for fresh nominations and elections to be held within thirty (30) days of filling fresh nominations,” insisted Chanda quoting the law.
The UPPZ President says the death of a parliamentary aspirant in Mandevu is a litmus test for the electoral body to do a right thing by following the electoral regulation act on to the latter with regard to ‘The Right to challenge the nomination of a candidate’.
Protested Chanda: “Where a candidate dies, resigns or become disqualified in accordance with Article 70, 100 or 153 or a court disqualifies a candidate for corruption or malpractice, after the close of nominations and before the election date, the Electoral Commission shall cancel the election and require the filing of fresh nominations by eligible candidates and elections shall be held within thirty-days of the filing of the fresh elections”.
Aside from death resulting into fresh nominations, the law provides three other reasons as a basis on which to delay holding of a poll, first, he nomination of any candidate may be challenged by any person within seven (7) days of the close of nominations before a court or tribunal, a court or tribunal shall hear the case within twenty one (21) days of its lodgement and thirdly, this process must be completed at least thirty (30) days before the general elections.
In a response aptly titled ‘I Beg to Differ with ECZ, Cancel Mandevu Constituency elections’, Mr. Jere, formerly Special Assistant to the President for Press and Public Relations to 4th Republican President, Mr. Rupiah Bwezani Banda, was alarmed when he read a story in the ‘Diggers Newspaper of Tuesday 22nd June, 2021, in which ECZ Spokesperson Ms. Luhanga is quoted to have said that the opposition ZUSD, led by Lazarus Chileshe Chisela, will be allowed to field another person following death of its candidate.
A former Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia Chapter Chairperson, Jere complained: “The Article is clear and couched in mandatory terms. ECZ “shall cancel the election” and call for fresh nominations. We are still far away from the August 12 election; therefore, ECZ can still do the fresh nomination and hold Mandevu constituency elections by Thursday 12th August since that Election Day falls within the required thirty-days stipulated by the Constitution for holding elections after fresh nominations. The Article uses “shall” which means that the ECZ has no discretion in the matter. Further, the Article does not say that only those candidates who participated in earlier nomination are eligible. It says “eligible candidates”, which means any new entrants in the race can join at this stage as long as they qualify! I am not sure what the framers of the Constitution had in mind on this one but is it law for the time being. In future – maybe – only the affected political party should be allowed to field a replacement candidate after death while the rest of the nominations should remain valid. Article 52(6) does not require ECZ to engage an affected party and ask whether it will field another candidate or not. It simply says when there is death, the election is cancelled”.
Jere, a journalist by profession stressed: “Let ECZ do the right thing and call for fresh nominations before time runout to hold the polls on the 12th August 2021 together with the rest of the elections nationwide. No need of inviting legal cases on straight forward matters like this one. The Article maybe problematic but it is what it is! We say the “law is an ass – a idiot”, the saying borrowed from George Chapman, the English dramatist in his 1654 Play called Revenge for Honour”.
On his part, speaking as an Electoral Expert, equally a print media journalist and publisher, Chipenzi pleaded with ECZ to cancel the parliamentary election and ask eligible candidate to file fresh nominations and facilitate a new poll date within 30 days.