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CCMG Statement on Observation of the 30 July 2020 Chavuma Central, Lubofu, Nyoka, Imusho and Silumbu Local Government By-Elections

  1. Summary

The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) observed both the pre-election period and election day for the Chavuma Central, Lubofu, Nyoka, Imusho, and Silumbu Ward Councillor by-elections. In the pre-election period, CCMG deployed five (one observer for each ward) Long-Term Observers (LTOs) and for election day, CCMG recruited, trained and deployed a total of 19 PVT Observers to every polling station and polling stream in Chavuma Central (5 Observers), Lubofu (3 Observers), Nyoka (4 Observers), Imusho (4 Observers), and Silumbu (3 Observers) Wards. CCMG also deployed five Ward Supervisors who served as mobile observers throughout the wards. PVT Observers arrived at their assigned polling station and polling stream at 05:30 hours and remained there throughout the polling station setup and opening, voting, and counting until the official results for the councillor election for the entire polling station were publicly announced and posted. The objective of CCMG’s PVT project was to make the Chavuma Central, Lubofu, Nyoka, Imusho, and Silumbu Ward Councillor by-elections more transparent by providing systematic factual information on the conduct of the process; more accountable by independently verifying the accuracy of the official results as announced by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and more inclusive by giving voters the confidence to participate in the process.

In the pre-election period, CCMG’s observers reported multiple incidents of violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct, include two allegations of voter card buying, use of a government vehicle for campaign purposes, and multiple reports of politically-motivated violence. The ECZ should swiftly investigate all allegations of electoral malpractice in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct, determine how to ensure better enforcement of the Code and to take punitive actions against violators.

CCMG had all its 24 election day observers (19 PVT Observers and 5 LTOs) accredited by the ECZ on 28 July 2020 and all observers who deployed to polling stations by 05:30 on 30 July 2020 were permitted to observe. However, CCMG notes that the presiding officer at one polling station in Silumbu did not allow CCMG’s observer to observe with his observation materials until 09:30hrs. The ECZ must include and emphasise roles and responsibilities of observers/monitors in its briefings for political party agents, security personnel to avoid incidents where political party agents or poll staff deny monitors/observers access to polling stations. CCMG also calls on the ECZ to establish a hotline and/or appoint an ECZ official to coordinate election day concerns of non-partisan observers, including accredited observers’ access to polling stations.

Based on the reports from CCMG’s 19 PVT Observers and five Mobile Election Day Observers, CCMG finds that by-elections in Chavuma Central, Lubofu, Nyoka, Imusho and Silumbu followed the election day procedures for the set-up, voting and counting processes on election day. CCMG notes that all required materials were present at the start of voting, that political party representatives were present in polling stations, and that the results of the polls were posted outside the polling station for the public. CCMG notes that ECZ officials, stakeholders and voters generally adhered to the COVID-19 protocols (wearing of masks, social distancing, and hand washing facilities). CCMG notes that for all five wards, CCMG’s PVT results matched the official ECZ results for all candidates. Thus CCMG was able to independently verify that the official ECZ results for the ward by-elections in the five wards were accurate and truly reflected the ballots cast at polling streams and polling stations.

While CCMG notes that on election day, procedures for the set-up, voting and counting were followed in all five wards, CCMG is concerned about multiple violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct in the pre-election period in Chavuma Central and Silumbu wards. CCMG calls for strengthened commitment to the Electoral Code of Conduct by political parties and for the ECZ to swiftly and thoroughly investigate all violations, determine ways to improve enforcement of the Code and take punitive actions again violators. In addition, CCMG urges the ECZ to ensure its election officials respect the rights and critical role of non-partisan observers by allowing them unimpeded access to polling stations to enhance the accountability, transparency and inclusivity of electoral processes in Zambia.

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2. Detailed Findings from Election Day

Setup and Opening of Polling Stations

  • 84% of polling streams were open by 06:30, and all polling streams with were open by 07:00;
  • At 100% of polling streams an agent for PF was present during opening and setup;
  • At 100% of polling streams an agent for UPND was present during opening and setup;
  • At all polling streams in Silumbu an agent for UPPZ was present during opening and setup;
  • At 100% of polling streams the ballot box was shown to be empty before being closed and sealed at the polling stream; and
  • All polling streams in the five wards had a voters’ register, the correct councillor ballot papers, the official stamp/mark, and permanent/indelible markers for marking voters’ fingers.

Voting Process

  • At 100% polling streams election officials stamped every ward councilor ballot paper with the official mark/stamp;
  • At 100% polling streams indelible ink was applied to the finger of every voter;
  • At 100% polling streams no one was permitted to vote if they did not have their NRC and Voter’s Card with them;
  • At 42% polling streams people who had an NRC and a Voter’s Card but whose names were missing on the voters’ register were allowed to vote;
  • At 100% polling streams no one was allowed to vote who had indelible ink on their thumbs or fingers;
  • At 58% polling streams some[1] able-bodied women (not physically disabled) were assisted to vote by a man; and
  • At 100% polling streams no unauthorized persons were present at any time during the voting process.

Counting Process

  • At 100% of polling streams all party polling agents present were permitted to observe the counting of councillor ballot papers;
  • At 100% polling streams there was sufficient light during the counting of councillor ballot papers;
  • At 100% polling streams a representative for PF was present during counting;
  • At 100% polling streams a representative for UPND was present during counting;
  • At 67% of polling streams in Silumbu, a representative for UPPZ was present during counting;
  • At 100% polling streams polling officials showed the councillor ballot papers to all party representatives so that they could see how each was marked; and
  • At 100% of polling stations with party agents present, party agents representing PF and UPND agreed with the councillor results, and signed a copy of the official results form (GEN 12). At 100% of polling stations with party agents present, all party agents were given a copy of the form (GEN 12).

Posting of Results

  • At 100% of polling stations, the councillor results for the entire polling station were posted for the public to see.

Accessibility of Voting for People with Disabilities

  • 32% of polling streams polling streams had Braille jackets for blind voters;
  • At 5% of polling streams, voters had to go up the stairs to reach the polling stream;
  • At 100% of polling streams that there was sufficient light during the voting process;
  • At 100% of polling streams people with disabilities, pregnant women and nursing mothers were allowed to go to the front of the queue.

COVID-19 Mitigation Measures

  • 100% of polling streams had hand washing/sanitizing facilities;
  • At 100% of polling streams ECZ officials were using COVID-19 protective wear, such as masks and sanitizers;
  • At 11% of polling streams some people, less than ten in total, were turned away and not allowed to vote as they did not comply with COVID-19 mitigation measures, including the use of face masks. This occurred in Chavuma Central;
  • At 100% of polling streams social distancing (1 metre) was maintained between all persons in the set-up for the polling stream; and
  • At 95% of polling streams social distancing (1 metre) was maintained in the voting queue.

Participation of Women

CCMG reports that of the average five ECZ officials in the polling stations, an average of 2 were women; and

CCMG reports that at least 32% of the polling streams had a female security officer, and all polling streams had a security officer.

CCMG reports that 5% of party representatives for PF were women, with 26% for UPND as women while UPPZ did not have any woman party representative.

3. Analysis of Results

CCMG notes that in all five ward by-elections, CCMG’s PVT results match the official ECZ results. CCMG is therefore able to independently verify that the official ECZ results for the ward by-elections in the five wards are accurate and truly reflect the ballots cast at polling streams and polling stations.

Election Day Critical Incidents

CCMG notes with concern that the presiding officer in one polling station in Silumbu Ward, Sesheke, did not allow CCMG’s observer to observe with his observation materials due to the objections of political party agents. Following CCMG’s intervention with the ECZ in Lusaka, CCMG’s observer was allowed to retrieve his materials and observe with them from 09h30. CCMG calls on the ECZ to ensure that its officers are properly trained on the rights of duly accredited non-partisan observers, and that political party agents respect the rights of non-partisan observers. CCMG also recommends that the ECZ establish a hotline and/or appoint an ECZ official to coordinate any election day obstacles observers encounter so that they may be swiftly resolved. Non-partisan observers are critical to voter confidence in election results and ECZ should make every effort to ensure they are not impeded.

4. Detailed Key Findings from the Pre-Election Period

Voter Education/Information

All of CCMG’s Observers observed voter education/information conducted by the ECZ in their wards, however CCMG did not observe Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) conducting voter information/education. Local media was observed conducting voter education/information in some but not all wards, and CCMG’s Observers reported limited voter education/information targeting women and persons with disabilities, but did not report any voter education/information targeting youth. CCMG also observed voter information/education on COVID-19 mitigation measures in all five wards. 

Election Preparations

CCMG’s observers reported that nominations of candidates on 9 July followed all procedures for filing nominations and that the environment in all five wards was calm and peaceful throughout the nomination process.

Political Parties Campaign Activities

All of CCMG’s Observers witnessed or heard of campaign activities in each of the five wards by both the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND). United Prosperous & Peaceful Zambia (UPPZ) was observed conducting campaign activities in Silumbu Ward only, where it fielded a councillor candidate. All of CCMG’s Observers witnessed or heard of police providing security at campaign rallies. CCMG also observed parties providing COVID-19 supplies to supporters (primarily unbranded face masks and hand sanitizers). None of CCMG’s Observers reported any instances of any party/candidate prevented from conducting a campaign activity in a public place, or in prohibited places. CCMG Observers reported one instance of the use of a government vehicle in campaign activities in Lubofu Ward, which is in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct.

While there was no instance of government restrictions on campaign activities, a CCMG Observer witnessed an instance of disruption during campaign activities, detailed below in critical incidents. CCMG also observed an instance of traditional leaders using their influence to support a particular party in Chavuma Central Ward, which is a violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct and should be investigated by the ECZ. CCMG did not observe any instances of political party youth wearing military attire or masks, but did observe two instances of a political party transporting youth from outside of Chavuma District, which is in contravention of the ECZ’s COVID-19 mitigation protocols.

Politically-Motivated Violence, Use of Hate Speech and Other Electoral Offences

CCMG noted two instances of inflammatory, defamatory or insulting language, both of which took place in Chavuma Central. CCMG observed two instances of buying of voter’s cards in Chavuma Ward, which is in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct, and should be investigated by the ECZ. CCMG also observed two instances of politically-motivated violence, detailed below under critical incidents.

COVID-19 Prevention Measures  

CCMG observed adherence to COVID-19 prevention measures (primarily use of face masks, hand washing and social distancing) during candidate nominations by the ECZ as well as voter education/information on COVID-19 mitigation measures. CCMG also observed adherence to the COVID-19 measures by political parties, with the exception of the ferrying of supporters in Chavuma Central, by political parties. 

Pre-Election Critical Incidents

CCMG received four critical incident reports in the pre-election period. On July 13, The CCMG Observer in Chavuma Central Ward heard of an incident where it was alleged that UPND supporters verbally harassed PF supporters who were in possession of bags of maize from the Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit in a government vehicle. On July 17, CCMG’s Observer heard of an incident on July 17 in Silumbu, during a UPND meeting. Two males wearing PF regalia but claiming to be UPPZ members arrived and a violent altercation ensued with two UPND members sustaining injuries and requiring treatment at the hospital. The Observer reports that the police arrived on the scene and stopped the fight. On July 21, CCMG’s Observer heard of an incident in Chavuma Central during preparations for a PF campaign activity at Chavuma Shopping Centre. Two male UPND supporters approached the crowd on a motorbike and used inflammatory language and stones were thrown at the pair. There were no reported injuries nor any police involvement.On July 27, CCMG’s Observer heard of an incident in Chavuma Central at a UPND campaign event where PF supporters used inflammatory language and threw stones, resulting in an escalation of the confrontation and the arrest of a PF supporter by police.

5. Conclusion and Recommendations

Electoral Commission of Zambia

  • ECZ should swiftly investigate all allegations of electoral malpractice in violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct, including those outlined in CCMG’s pre-election reports, which include two allegations of voter card buying, use of a government vehicle for campaign purposes, support of political party by a traditional leader, and multiple reports of politically-motivated violence. The ECZ should determine how to ensure better enforcement of the Code and to take punitive actions against violators.
  • ECZ must include and emphasise roles and responsibilities of observers/monitors in its briefings for political party agents, security personnel to avoid incidents where political party agents or poll staff deny monitors/observers access to polling stations.
  • ECZ should ensure that its polling officers are properly trained on the rights of election observers, to ensure that duly accredited observers are permitted to observe with all of their observation materials. CCMG calls on the ECZ to establish a hotline and/or appoint an ECZ official to coordinate election day concerns of non-partisan observers, including accredited observers’ access to polling stations;
  • ECZ should continue to engage with political parties, CSOs, traditional leaders, and all other relevant stakeholders on the need for non-violent campaigns and to ensure adherence to the Electoral Code of Conduct by all stakeholders and to outline its plan for enforcement of the Code.
  • ECZ should continue to provide clear, public COVID-19 guidelines for holding elections and ensure publicity of the said guidelines in a manner that is beneficial to the electorate. These guidelines should be publicly available in advance of the election and clearly posted at polling stations. In the pre-election period, the ECZ should hold parties accountable for breeches in the COVID-19 mitigation protocols, including the ferrying of supporters from outside the constituency where the by-election is taking place, which CCMG observed during the pre-election period.
  • ECZ should continue to work with political parties to ensure that campaign schedules are developed for each election and followed throughout the campaign period, as this has been effective in reducing political violence.
  • ECZ should lead targeted voter education efforts focused on facilitating the participation of special interest groups including women, youth, and persons living with disabilities.

Zambia Police

  • The police should provide continue to provide security to all political parties at events without fear or favor in the management of political gatherings and rallies and should not use the Public Order Act to limit political space, as it did in most events in these by-elections. However, the police should provide security at all party campaign events and meetings to discourage members of rival political parties from instigating confrontations and to prevent any confrontations from escalating to violence, as seen in Silumbu and Chavuma Central during these by-elections.

Political Parties

  • Political parties should adhere to the campaign schedules for each ward published by the Electoral Commission of Zambia to maintain a peaceful pre-election period and refrain from harassing other political parties during their campaign events.
  • Political parties should train their party agents on election day procedures and on the roles of ECZ officials and non-partisan observers and on the importance of non-partisan observers to a credible election.
  • CCMG appeals to political parties to abide by the COVID-19 prevention measures set out by the ECZ and the Ministry of Health in their campaigns and party mobilization activities, and encourage their supporters to do so as well. Parties should not ferry supporters from areas outside of where the by-election is taking place, as prescribed by the ECZ in its COVID-19 mitigation measures.

Civil Society Organizations

  • CSOs should increase their targeted and coordinated voter education and information campaigns with consideration for the needs of women, youth, and persons with disabilities, and increase sensitization efforts on COVID-19 prevention, including mitigation measures for political and electoral activities.

 Media

  • Public and private media should play their role in providing equal and balanced coverage to all contesting political parties and candidates and uphold high journalistic standards and ethics, and adhere to the Electoral Code of Conduct.
  • Public and private media should increase their voter education and information programs aimed at informing citizens of their right and civic duty to participate in political and electoral processes, and to provide information about upcoming elections.

Voters

  • Voters must continue to adhere to COVID-19 mitigation measures set out by the Ministry of Health and those by the ECZ related to the voting process itself. These measures include social distancing and hand washing, as well as the use of face masks which was not universal in these by-elections.

6. Conclusion

Although Election Day for the 30 July By-Elections in Chavuma Central, Lubofu, Nyoka, Imusho and Silumbu wards was largely held in a calm and peaceful, CCMG notes with concern the incidents of violence, allegations of voters card buying and other violations of the Electoral Code of Conduct, which primarily took place in Chavuma Central and Silumbu Wards. CCMG calls upon the ECZ to improve enforcement of the Code and take punitive measures against violators.

CCMG commends the ECZ for publishing and publicising its COVID-19 mitigation measures, which were largely followed, however CCMG calls for political parties to desist from ferrying supporters from outside the area where the election is taking place. CCMG also calls on the ECZ and political parties to respect the role of non-partisan observers as critical stakeholders in electoral processes.

CCMG notes that on election day, procedures for the setup, voting and counting were followed in all five wards, that all required materials were present at the start of voting, that political party representatives were present in polling stations, and that the results of the polls were posted outside the polling station for the public. CCMG’s PVT results for all five wards match the ECZ’s official results

CCMG commends voters in the wards for braving the cold and following public health guidelines to cast their votes for their preferred candidate. Finally, CCMG would like to thank all its 19 PVT Observers and 5 Long-Term Observers for observing the 30 July 2020 Ward Councillor By-Elections.


[1] CCMG describes “some” as less than half of all able-bodied women.