Friday, 17 October 2008


By Gershom Ndhlovu

 Supreme Court judgements, by their nature of being unchallengeable, become law or precedence as the lawyers call it, and have to be followed as such. Clearly in this election campaign, one Supreme Court judgement has been ripped to pieces may be because the culprits have been queuing to support the ruling MMD presidential candidate Rupiah Banda.

A few months ago the Supreme Court nullified the Mwansabombwe seat which was held by PF's Samuel Chitonge after the 2006 elections but was challenged by MMD's Maybin Mubanga on account of Senior Chief Mwata Kazembe supporting Chitonge to the disadvantage of Mubanga.

Principally, the Supreme Court observed that Mwata Kazembe prevented voters from choosing a candidate of their choice because he supported the PF and its candidate.

From the evidence,” according to a story carried by the Zambia Daily Mail at the time, “the court noted that Mwata Kazembe was an influential figure whose action was illegal.”

The court, according to the story, pointed out that the constitution and the Election Act did not allow a chief to exert undue influence on his subjects and reference was made to the case of Sikota Wina who petitioned Mulobezi MP Michael Mabenga on grounds that an induna ferried supporters to a secret meeting. The court noted that in this case, Mwata Kazembe was not an ordinary induna but a senior chief.

In contrast with the judgement in the Chitonge case, the nation has in the last few weeks witnessed a whole array of chiefs being paraded to endorse Banda's candidature. One wonders if the Supreme Court judgement in this case only applies to parliamentary candidates and not presidential candidates. But since an election is an election regardless at what level it is, whether local government, parliamentary or presidential, the same rules should apply and fairly for that matter.

If the Supreme Court found Mwata Kazembe's actions illegal in the election of Chitonge in 2006, the actions of chiefs who are being paraded all over the country to openly support Banda are definitely illegal and it is high time someone blew the whistle considering that a legal precedent has been set by no other than the highest court in the land.

Chiefs by their nature are influential to not only people living within their chiefdoms but to their subjects living in other parts of the country. We all know how deferentially subjects behave towards a chief or even a headman, when he is visiting an urban area such that if he or she said that she supported one presidential candidate in, say Namwala, his or her word would reverberate around the country knowing that his royal highness has spoken on behalf of his subjects wherever they may be in the Republic of Zambia.

People should not underrate the influence of chiefs by thinking that this only ended in their chiefdoms. I have in the past covered chiefs visiting urban areas and in some instances, urban-based subjects visiting chiefs and seen for myself what transpires when subject meets chief. To dismiss it as a mere customary thing would be very naïve for anyone.

Similarly, to dismiss the influence of chiefs in an election such as the forthcoming presidential by-election would be suicidal for any politician. This is is the reason why the rule book vis-a-vis Chitonge's judgement should be thrown at these chiefs and whoever is seen to flout it, should be dealt with accordingly.

Knowing the character of most of the chiefs, they receive “gifts” from politicians who visit them and then make careless political statements to justify the gifts. Today's chiefs are no different from the chiefs of several centuries ago who sold their subjects into slavery for bottles of rum, coloured cloth, salt beads and mirrors.

The only difference is that today's chiefs would be “herded” into the comfort of some lodge for a few days, pampered with the most expensive and potent alcoholic drink and at the end of the day, awarded with fat brown envelopes and they come up with the most absurd of statements in support of a particular candidate. This is no different from selling their subjects into slavery.

Rigging of elections is difficult to prove but certain occurrences during elections may point to that. In the rural areas where results wipe out the gains of opposition parties in urban areas, the ferrying of ballot boxes by ZAF helicopters is, in my view, a very sensitive issue that needs to be addressed seriously and with the urgency it deserves.

In 2000, I had an opportunity to cover a by-election in Mufumbwe were I witnessed ZAF choppers ferrying ballot boxes from polling stations in outlying some as far away as 400 km.

Not that anything untoward that I can remember happened in that by-election but given that there are so many places like Mufumbwe where these choppers criss-cross the countryside and what is of concern is that there is not enough room on the choppers to carry all of the participating parties' agents to keep an eye on the ballot boxes on their way to central counting places at council offices.

When one hears statements that this or that candidate will never be allowed to rule Zambia, then you wonder who determines that. Is it the people who control elections or the citizens who cast their votes? Is this at the point when rigging takes place to keep out the unwanted leaders from State House?

In the last few weeks I have such statements from people who should really know better. The best way to show that people have the power to chose who leads them, they must vote convincingly not to leave any doubt as to who they want as president rather than have their intelligence insulted.

A leader Zambians chose should not be voted for because he has dished out a lot of brown envelopes, sugar, mealie meal or has bought many drums of Chibuku, but one with the vision to take the nation beyond the poverty that many of our citizens are chained to.






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