Interim Mission Statement by the SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation Mission to the 11 August 2016 Zambia General Elections and Referendum
DELIVERED BY HONOURABLE TASKA R. MBOGO, MISSION LEADER AND MEMBER OF PARLIAMENT OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE UNITED REPUBLIC OF TANZANIA ON 13 AUGUST 2016 AT INTERCONTINENTAL HOTEL IN LUSAKA, ZAMBIA
· Your Excellency Oldemiro Baloi, Head of the SADC Election Observer Mission and Minister of
Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mozambique;
· Esteemed Heads of the African Union; Electoral Commissions Forum of SADC Countries (ECF- SADC); Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA); Commonwealth; Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA); Carter Center; International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and other International Election Observation Missions;
- Chairperson and Commissioners of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ);
- Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
- Esteemed Leaders of Political Parties;
- Representatives of Local Observers and Monitors;
- Media Representatives;
- Distinguished Guests;
- Ladies and Gentlemen
I am honoured to present the SADC Parliamentary Forum Election Observation Mission Interim Statement on the 2016 Zambia General Elections and Referendum in my capacity as the Mission Leader.
Following an invitation by the Government of the Republic of Zambia, the Southern African Development Community Parliamentary Forum (SADC PF),1 constituted an Election Observation Mission to observe the Zambia General Elections and Referendum, which were held on 11 August
2016. SADC PF constituted a 25-Member Mission, which has been in Zambia since 5 August to date. The Mission is composed of Members of Parliament and staff from SADC Parliaments as well as officials from SADC PF Secretariat.
This Election Observation Mission marks the fifth time that SADC PF has observed elections in Zambia and is the 40th Observation Mission to be deployed since 1999 when the SADC PF started observing elections in SADC Member States.
The purpose of this Interim Statement is to share with the Electoral Commission of Zambia and other stakeholders, the Mission's Findings and Recommendations, which are aimed at strengthening and improving the credibility, professionalism and integrity of electoral processes in Zambia and the entire SADC Region. Kindly note that a more detailed Final Report shall be compiled and published within 90 days from the date of this Interim Statement, and shall be formally presented to the Electoral Commission of Zambia. Stakeholders will also have an opportunity to consider the Main Report at an All Stakeholders Workshop, which SADC PF will jointly organise with ECZ.
2. TERMS OF REFERENCE
The Mission's observation work was guided by its Terms of Reference that are premised on SADC PF's two election instruments, namely the Norms and Standards for Elections in the SADC Region and the Benchmarks for Assessing Democratic Elections in Southern Africa . Additionally, the Mission was guided by the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African
1 The SADC Parliamentary Forum is a Regional inter-parliamentary forum that was established in 1996 and was approved by the SADC Summit as a consultative and deliberative body in accordance with Article 9 (2) of the SADC Treaty. It is composed of 15 National Parliaments, namely Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Lesotho, Malawi, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe
Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, among other regional and international election instruments.
3. DEPLOYMENT PLAN
The Mission's teams were deployed in three Provinces of Lusaka, Copperbelt and Southern Province.
4. OBSERVATION METHODOLOGY
The Mission Teams used an assortment of information gathering methods, which included review of the constitutional and legal framework governing elections and referenda in Zambia, consultations with key electoral stakeholders such as the ECZ, political parties and candidates, Civil Society Organisations, media and the general electorate. The Mission also observed political campaign rallies, witnessed door-to-door campaigns by political parties and candidates and monitored the mass and social media.
Furthermore, the Mission interacted with other Election Observation Missions including the SADC Election Observer Mission, the AU, COMESA, ECF-SADC, Carter Centre, EISA, the EU and the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region, in order to exchange information and observations.
5. GUIDING PRINCIPLES FOR THE SADC PF MISSION
In carrying out its observation work, the Mission was guided by the principles of impartiality, neutrality, comprehensiveness, transparency, inclusiveness and objectivity.
6. MISSION FINDINGS
6.1 Political Context and the Campaign Environment
The SADC PF Mission took note that Zambia has since 1991, conducted multi-party elections regularly and has witnessed peaceful transfer of power from one political party to another on several occasions. For the 2016 General Elections and Referendum, campaigning commenced on 16 May and lasted until
10 August. The campaigns took a variety of forms including rallies, road shows, door-to-door campaigns, advertisements in the mass and social media, still and electronic bill boards, TV debates, as well as the posting of campaign posters in various public places.
The Mission noted that the 2016 General Elections were highly competitive, especially between the two major parties, the Patriotic Front (PF) and the United Party for National Development (UPND). The Mission noted the concerns raised by political parties and other stakeholders regarding allegations of abuse of public resources by the ruling party, in particular the continuation of Ministers in office after the dissolution of Parliament. The Mission therefore, welcomes the ruling by the Constitutional Court on Monday 8 August 2016, ordering Ministers to vacate office, which settled the matter. .
The campaign environment was observed to be generally peaceful and this accorded Zambians the chance to enjoy various freedoms stipulated in the Constitution, such as freedoms of speech, expression, assembly, association and movement. However, the Mission was concerned with the sporadic incidents of politically motivated inter-party violence which occurred in some parts of the country during the pre-election period, which stakeholders blamed on PF and UPND. In this regard, the Mission commends the role played by political leaders, religious leaders, ECZ and other stakeholders in calling for peace and condemning violence which went a long way in calming the situation.
The Mission, therefore, calls upon all political parties and their supporters to desist from the use of violence for political ends and maintain the culture of peace and political tolerance that Zambians have always been known for.
6.2 The Constitutional and Legal Framework
The Mission took note of the constitutional and legal framework governing the General Elections and
Referenda in Zambia, in particular the following pieces of legislation:
i) The Constitution of Zambia of 1991, particularly Part III (Bill of Rights) and Article 79;
ii) The Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act of 2016;
iii) The Electoral Process Act No. 35 2016 which also contains the Electoral Code of Conduct in the SCHEDULE Section of the Act;
iv) The Electoral Commission Act No. 25 of 2016;
v) The Referendum Act of 1967 and the Referendum Amendment Act No 5 of 2015; and
vi) Various statutory instruments made to regulate the electoral process, such as the Electoral
(General) Regulations and the Electoral (Registration of Voters) Regulations.
The SADC PF Mission noted that following the recent amendments, the constitutional and legal framework in Zambia provides for two types of elections; the Majoritarian Electoral System for Presidential Elections; and the First Past the Post (FPTP) electoral model for Parliamentary, Mayoral and Local Government Elections.
The Mission also noted other key amendments to the law, which include the introduction of the Running Mate system; minimum educational requirement of Grade 12 or School Certificates for all aspirants for the President, MPs, Mayors/Council Chairpersons and Councillors; election of Mayor/Council Chairpersons by universal suffrage; designation of ECZ Chairperson as Returning Officer for Presidential Elections; transition of 7 days before swearing in of a President-Elect; 14 days for the Constitutional Court to make a determination on the petition of presidential election results; the introduction of the Constitutional Court; and prescribing of the Election Day. These various amendments align Zambia's legal framework with best electoral practices and are consistent with previous recommendations by the SADC PF Election Observation Missions.
The Constitution of Zambia guarantees fundamental rights and freedoms for citizens, which include freedom of conscience, expression, assembly, movement and association.
The SADC PF Mission is satisfied that the constitutional and legislative framework governing Elections and Referenda in Zambia augurs well for the election of political representatives in a transparent manner in line with the SADC PF's Benchmarks for Assessing Democratic Elections in Southern Africa and the revised SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections.
6.3 The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and Election Administration
The SADC PF Mission was satisfied with the legal framework on the establishment, organisation, functions and responsibilities of the Electoral Commission of Zambia, as the sole authority responsible for the conduct of elections in Zambia. In particular, the Mission hails the establishment of ECZ under the Constitution of the Republic as an autonomous and independent body. It also welcomes the role accorded to the National Assembly, as the representative body, to ratify the appointment of ECZ Chairperson and Commissioners by the President, which foster the Commission's credibility.
Regarding the ECZ's preparedness for the 2016 Zambia General Elections and Referendum, the Mission was satisfied that ECZ was manifestly prepared as evidenced by the printing of ballot papers and procurement of election materials on time. The Mission commends ECZ for involving all stakeholders throughout the entire process, including the printing and distribution of ballot papers and constantly updating the public on the Elections.
The Mission took note of the commitment by the ECZ to announce Election and Referendum results within 48 hours and its readiness to conduct the Second round of the Presidential Election, should it occur, within the legislated 37 days.
The Mission also lauds the ECZ for introducing the Results Transmission System to communicate results from each Constituency Totalling Centre to the National Results Centre and for allowing party agents to monitor the entire results management process, including the National Results Centre for the first time. This further enhances accuracy, transparency and credibility of the electoral processes and outcomes.
The ECZ also carried out Voter Education Programmes in conjunction with Civil Society Organisation and distributed voting materials to all the Districts in Zambia in accordance with the electoral calendar and kept stakeholders updated. The Mission also commends the Commission and its electoral staff for their professionalism and dedication to duty during the entire electoral process where they worked for long hours.
The Mission, however, is concerned by reports of disruption and interception of ECZ vehicles distributing election materials by some political cadres which if unchecked can seriously undermine the work of the Commission and the credibility of the Elections.
On the whole, the Mission commends the ECZ for the professional and efficient manner in which it prepared for and conducted the Elections and Referendum, in compliance with the country's constitutional and electoral laws.
6.4 The Role of Security Forces
The Mission noted the role played by the Zambia Police Service in providing security to the electoral process prior, during and after the Election Day, without interfering with the electoral processes. The Security Officers were present at all the polling stations visited by the Mission's Teams. The Mission further noted the arrangements put in place by ECZ to use Zambia Air Force planes to ferry election materials to the difficult to reach areas across the country.
However, the Mission noted the concerns raised by the stakeholders, in particular opposition political parties, regarding biased application of the Public Order Act by the police which they accused of cancelling political rallies and activities of opposition parties on flimsy grounds. The Mission also noted the complaints by some stakeholders who felt that the Public Order Act does not grant the Police discretionary powers to cancel political gatherings, a behaviour which they said undermined their freedoms of assembly and association.
6.5 Role of Civil Society Organisations
Civil Society Organisations(CSOs) played an active and non-partisan role in the electoral process. The
Mission was heartened to note that CSOs undertook civic and voter education in conjunction with the Electoral Commission. They also trained and deployed a high number of local observers and monitors. This greatly enhances the transparency of the electoral process and raises public confidence in the credibility and legitimacy of elections.
6.6 Voter Registration and the State of the Voters' Roll
The Mission noted that the Constitution of Zambia guarantees the voting rights for citizens who have attained the age of 18 years and mandates the ECZ to conduct and supervise the registration of voters.
The Mission noted that Electoral Law provides for continuous voter registration and that for the 2016
Elections and Referendum, six million, six hundred and ninety eight thousand, three hundred and seventy two voters were registered (6,698,372), out of the census projected figure of seven million, five hundred thousand (7,500,000) eligible voters. This represents an increase of 32 % over the 2011
Voter's Roll and about 89 percent success rate.
The Mission noted that the ECZ engaged a team of consultants to conduct an independent audit of the Voters' Roll following concerns by some stakeholders regarding alleged anomalies in the Voter' Roll including presence of dead people and registration of foreigners . This went a long way in enhancing stakeholder-confidence in the Voters' Roll.
6.7 Civic and Voter Education
The Mission noted that ECZ oversaw the conduct of Civic and Voter Education in line with its mandate and implemented a comprehensive programme which was complimented by the CSOs and the media. The Mission further noted that the materials for Voter Education were translated into the seven major local languages and in Braille and DVDs in sign languages which augured well in terms of broadening access to the materials. The Mission, however, noted that voter education in respect of the Bill of Rights and the Referendum question was delayed due to late release of the relevant information and this affected extend to which citizens were informed about the Referendum process.
Overall, the Mission was satisfied by the adequacy and accuracy of the Civic and Voter Education which was undertaken by the ECZ and CSOs which enhanced the electorate's appreciation of voting procedures and their rights and duties with regards to democratic processes in the elections.
6.8 Political Party Financing and Regulation
The Mission noted that there was no public fund made available to political parties during the 2016
Zambia General Elections and Referendum. The Mission, however, welcomes the provision in the new Constitution establishing a Political Parties Fund to provide financial support to political parties with seats in Parliament. The Mission further welcomes the requirement by the Constitution for political parties to account for the public funds, to reveal sources of funds and the ceilings on the amount of funds to be spend for campaigns during election.
This is a welcome development as it will enhance the participation of political parties in the governance of the country by levelling the playing field. It also ensures transparency and accountability on the role of money in politics.
The Mission, therefore, calls for these provisions to be operationalised expeditiously.
6.9 Media Coverage of the Elections
The Mission noted the role played by the media in enhancing awareness on the election process
including voter education and candidate nominations. The Mission commends the role played by the Community Radio Stations spread across the country, which provided wide and fair coverage on the electoral process in local languages. This went a long way in promoting public interest and encouraging public participation in the elections.
The SADC PF Mission, however, noted the recurrent complaints from political parties and other stakeholders against some media houses which perpetuated the culture of polarisation and bias in their coverage of political parties, candidates and campaigns. The public media was evidently blatantly biased towards the Ruling Party while the private and online media was favouring sections of the opposition. This defies established ethical standards of balance and fairness. It also contravenes both the Constitution and the Electoral Code of Conduct which provide for equal access to the media by all political parties and candidates. The Mission wishes to reiterate that the public media has a greater obligation to provide balanced coverage of all political players since it is funded from public resources.
6.10 Gender Mainstreaming and Women Participation
The Mission noted that there are no reserved seats or quotas for women in Zambia. There was only
one female candidate out of nine Presidential Candidates while only three out of nine Vice Presidential candidates were female. For the National Assembly, there were 106 female candidates out of 651 candidates (16%), 40 female candidates out of 331 Mayoral/Council Chairperson candidates (12%), and 415 female candidates out of 4,566 Councillor candidates (9%).
Stakeholders cited the minimum educational requirement of Grade 12, prohibitive nomination fees and political violence as some of the major obstacles inhibiting women from vying for political office.
The Mission, therefore, calls on political parties to do more to correct the current acute underrepresentation of women in political and decision-making positions. There is also need for legal reforms to be undertaken to introduce quotas for women in Parliament, Councils and other structures of Government. This is imperative in view of Zambia's obligations towards the attainment of gender parity in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development.
6.11 Participation of Youths
The Mission was heartened to note that the minimum age for a Presidential Candidate is 35 years under the Zambian Constitution, which opens up opportunity for young people to aspire for the highest office. The Mission, however, noted with concern that in spite of the youth constituting the majority of the voters, their participation in the electoral process was generally confined to mobilising support for parties and candidates. There were also incidents of abuse of alcohol by the youths during rallies and related political activities. The youth were also used as tools of violence during the elections.
The Mission, therefore, calls on political parties to take deliberate measures to make sure that youths are represented in political and decision making positions.
6.12 Electoral Dispute Resolution Mechanisms in Place
The Mission noted the existence across the country of Conflict Resolution Committees as provided for in both the Electoral Code of Conduct and the Electoral Process Act. The Mission also noted that electoral conflicts were successfully resolved by the various District Conflict Resolution Committees which were composed of political party representatives, the police and CSOs.
The Mission also noted that the Judiciary played a critical role in dispute resolution through the interpretation of laws, particularly given the recent amendments to the legal framework in Zambia. The Mission particularly noted the Constitutional Court's ruling on 8 August ordering Ministers to vacate office and the High Court's ruling ordering the Police to allow the UPND to hold a rally on the Copperbelt. In addition, the Mission noted the High Court order to the Zambia National Broadcasting Corporation (ZNBC) to air a political documentary for the UPND. The rulings by the courts helped to settle disputes and raised stakeholders' confidence in the Judiciary's ability to settle disputes.
6.13 Election Day, Voting and Counting
The Mission observed that voting took place in a peaceful environment and there was high voter turnout at most of the polling stations visited. Most polling stations opened at 0600 hours and closed at 1800 hours in terms of the law. Voters who were in voting queues by 1800 hours were allowed to vote in line with the law. Voting materials were observed to be available in adequate quantities and electoral officials were evidently competent and followed procedures. Party agents, local monitors and international observers were present at polling stations. At polling stations that opened late, the ECZ compensated for the delay.
Incidents of fading official mark on ballot papers were reported in some polling stations. The Mission took note that ECZ distributed ink pads to some polling stations to supplement the fading official mark, instructed its polling staff to put the word 'official' at the back of the ballot paper and designated ballot papers that were cast with faded official marks as valid. The decision by the ECZ allowed voting to proceed smoothly.
The senior citizens, sick, pregnant and the disabled were fast tracked in the voting process in line with the law. There were multiple voting streams at polling stations visited by the Mission's Teams and this sped up the voting process. However, there were few incidents when polling stations were congested which had potential to affect orderliness and the secrecy of the vote.
At the closure of voting, ballots were counted and results for each polling stations were announced and posted outside the polling stations for public access. The political party agents and observers present at the polling stations appended their signatures to the results before their transmission to the Constituency Totalling Centres for onward transmission to the National Results Totalling Centre through the Results Transmission System. The entire results transmission process from polling station to National Results Centre, through the Constituency Totalling Centres, was done under the watchful eyes of party agents, which augurs well for the transparency and credibility of election results.
7. GOOD PRACTICES
The Mission observed the following as good practices from the 2016 Zambia General Elections and
7.1 The provision in the Constitution allowing for the determination of presidential elections results petitions by the Constitutional Court before the installation of the president-elect;
7.2 The provision in the Constitution for timeframe within which the Constitutional Court must determine petitions on the Presidential election results;
7.3 The declaration of the Voting Day as a public holiday which allowed the citizens to go and vote;
7.4 A comprehensive array of laws governing all aspects of the electoral process, including a legally binding Electoral Code of Conduct to guide the role and behaviour of various stakeholders in the electoral process;
7.5 Introduction of the Results Transmission System with a build-in control to detect errors in the aggregation of results and allowing of political party agents at the National Results Centre which enhances efficiency and transparency in the delivery of election results;
7.6 Existence of a Call Centre with toll free numbers by the ECZ for purposes of receiving queries and
or complaints from the general public on matters relating to the electoral process;
7.7 Existence of polling streams at polling stations which sped up the voting process;
7.8 The use of biometric voter registration system which allows the inclusion of multiple identification features for registered voters including colour photographs;
7.9 Use of polling station-based Voters' Roll and indelible ink which eliminates the possibility of
7.10 Fast-tracking of differently abled persons, senior citizens and pregnant mothers during voting in order to reduce the time they spend in the queue;
7.11 The adequate number of polling stations provided by the ECZ which were conveniently accessible to voters in terms of distance and location;
7.12 Professionalism and commitment to duty demonstrated by the electoral staff who worked under pressure for long hours throughout the electoral process;
7.13 The high level of preparedness and openness to engage stakeholders by the ECZ throughout the electoral process;
7.14 The holding of regular updates by the ECZ at National Results Centre to inform the public about
various challenges experienced by the Commission during the electoral process which helped in easing anxieties and in turn reassured stakeholders of the credibility of the process;
7.15 Counting of votes at polling stations and the availing of results to party agents, candidates and observers in line with good and transparent electoral practice;
7.16 Participation of stakeholders in the verification of the printing of ballot papers at the cost of the
7.17 The high number of local and international observers accredited by ECZ to observe the Elections and the Referendum which added to the transparency of the electoral and the referendum process.
8. AREAS FOR IMPROVEMENT
8.1 The need to operationalise Article 50 of the Constitution in order to ensure equal access to the public media and fair and balanced reporting by both private and public media during election campaigns;
8.2 The need to develop strong legal and administrative mechanisms to encourage and support the
participation of women in politics and ensure gender parity in political and decision making positions in line with the SADC Protocol on Gender and Development;
8.3 The need for political leaders and supporters to exercise political tolerance and desist from the use of political violence for political ends;
8.4 The need to operationalise the Constitutional provision on political parties' funding in order to enhance and broaden the participation of parties in national politics;
8.5 The need to clean up the Voters' Roll through a corroborative effort involving all stakeholders.
This will help enhance the integrity of the Voters' Roll;
8.6 The need to address congestion in polling stations in order to speed up the voting process,
especially given the harmonised nature of elections in Zambia; and
8.7 The need to make provision to allow Zambian citizens based abroad, to register as voters and exercise their right to vote.
9. MISSION'S OVERALL ASSESSMENT
Based on its overall findings of the electoral processes up to this point of the Election Cycle, the SADC PF Election Observation Mission is satisfied that there existed a conducive and peaceful environment in which the Elections and Referendum were conducted. Zambian voters were accorded the opportunity to freely express their choice, notwithstanding the observed shortcomings mentioned in this Interim Statement.
The Mission is, therefore, of the view that the process up to this point, is on the whole, a credible reflection of the will of the majority of the people who voted. Accordingly, the Mission declares the Elections and Referendum as having been smooth, free, transparent and credible.
As earlier stated, SADC PF will continue to observe the post election processes, including the final declaration of results and post-election developments and will pronounce itself accordingly in its Final Report.
The SADC PF Election Observation Mission to the 2016 Zambia General Elections and Referendum commends the political parties and candidates, the People and all electoral stakeholders in the Republic of Zambia for the mature and tolerant manner in which they conducted themselves during the entire election period. The Mission calls for the same maturity and tolerance to continue during the post-election phase. Where there are grievances, these should be dealt with in terms of procedures and the law.
In conclusion, Zambia must be congratulated for not only conducting elections regularly, but for allowing the peaceful transfer of power from one party to another on several occasions. Zambia's example should be emulated by other countries in the SADC Region, Africa and beyond.
I Thank You