The people’s will must prevail in Zambia
ABOUT 1,8 million of 3,3 million registered voters in Sadc’s fourth oldest democracy, Zambia, went to the polls in a general election on Thursday to elect a president, their legislators and councillors. By 20:23PM yesterday the incumbent President Edgar Lungu of the Patriotic Front (PF) had, according to the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), polled 955 035 votes to maintain a slender lead over his main rival Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development who had 840 232 votes.
The contest is a two-horse race, a re-match between the protagonists who squared up in a presidential by-election held in October 2014 to replace the then President, Michael Sata, who had died. In that election, President Lungu beat Mr Hichilema by 27 757 votes.
This time, the outcome is likely to be just as narrow. The ECZ tally showed that President Lungu had gained 50,77 percent of the vote with Mr Hichilema trailing at 44,67 percent. Both are confident they would win the election in which the estimated turnout was about 57 percent — far higher than last year. Long queues and no major violence were noted on voting day.
Nine people are seeking the presidency. Apart from the two main contenders one interesting candidate is Tilyenji Kaunda, son to Zambia’s founding President, Kenneth Kaunda who is leading the party of independence, the United National Independence Party. The younger Kaunda was last night in distant sixth place with 4 944 votes.
The winning presidential candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the valid votes cast and if none of them does, a run off would be held, featuring the two with the highest votes. However, judging from the mood in the PF, President Lungu is keen to settle the contest in the first round.
Full results were expected by Friday or Saturday. This has prompted the opposition to complain about the lateness in the release of the final result, alleging that the ECZ was tinkering with the figures to give the election to President Lungu, a claim his party rejects.
The run-up to Thursday was generally calm with all parties campaigning freely although violence flared up later on.
Zambia is a friendly neighbour of ours and relations between our two countries are extremely solid. The relations go deeper than the government-to-government level as they run down to a people-to-people basis. Zimbabweans and Zambians have a lot in common and their people are one. No Zimbabwean would forget the sacrifices that Zambians made during our liberation struggle when Lusaka hosted thousands of liberation fighters who prosecuted the war from that country. As a result of that, Zambia, under President Kaunda suffered huge losses in reprisal assaults by the then Rhodesian regime of Ian Smith but would not be deterred.
Therefore, Zimbabweans wish Zambia well and appeal to them to maintain the calm and patience as they wait for the full results to be released. Everyone of them should respect the outcome of the poll. The losers must accept defeat and wait for next time and winners should celebrate responsibly and begin the work to advance the socio-economic development of that great country.
The Christian Churches Monitoring Group, which has observers across the country, urged Zambians to maintain peace.
“We appeal to all Zambians, regardless of their affiliation to remain peaceful, to reject violence,” the group said in a statement.
“Zambia is not a new democracy and should be a model to the region and beyond.”
An EU monitoring team also voiced concern about the violence in the run-up to the vote, which led to campaigning being suspended for 10 days — a move which the observers said had hampered smaller parties running for office.
The Commonwealth Observer Group led by former Tanzania President, Mr Jakaya Kikwete, endorsed the conduct of the elections.
“Our overall conclusion is that the voting, closing and counting process at the polling stations on 11 August, were credible and transparent,” said Mr Kikwete.
“It is the Commonwealth’s hope and expectation that this spirit of orderliness, tolerance and peace, which has characterised the voting process, will prevail as the results phase continues. We urge all political parties and candidates to respect the will of the people of Zambia as it emerges over the next few days, and to seek redress for any grievances through peaceful dialogue, and through prescribed legal channels. This is the Zambian Constitutional way. It is also the Commonwealth way. We reiterate the appeal we made to all Zambians, in the joint statement by African and International Election Observation Missions on 10 August 2016, to refrain from making any utterances and/or performing acts that could trigger tensions and negatively affect the post-election environment.”
We have no doubt that Zambians will continue on the peaceful path they have been over the past 52 years of independence, that of always subordinating themselves to their constitution and the rule of law.