from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – THE suspension of the ruling party’s chief campaigner for allegedly fuelling tribalism is the first such sanction taken by Zambian electoral authorities as the scourge mars preparations for the August 12 polls.
On Wednesday, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced the indefinite suspension of Chishimba Kambwili, whose campaigns on behalf of President Edgar Lungu’s Patriotic Front (PF) threatened to tear the country along tribal lines.
The controversial former minister and opposition leader is also facing a police charge of hate speech for alleged hate speech.
Kambili (52) is quoted in some campaign messages as inciting other tribes to rise against the Tonga speaking people, mostly occupying the south of the country.
He has also been captured in media as demeaning the main opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) as a tribal party which is home to every Zambian from the south.
Kambwili’s tribal hate speech crusade has been running from January until this week, according to a report filed to the police by an opposition member.
Some women groups have threatened a naked protest if authorities did not act.
The ECZ has suspended the ruling party’s campaigner indefinitely.
Kryticous Nshidamo, the ECZ Chief Electoral Officer, said the commission had noted with concern the breach of the Electoral Code of Conduct by Kambwili, particularly, the use of hate speech and holding of campaign rallies despite the guidance provided.
“The use of language which incites hatred or violence in any form against any person shall not be tolerated by the Commission as it contravenes the provisions of the Electoral Code of Conduct,” Nshindamo said.
He said Kambwili’s going against the commission decision to suspend rallies and road shows did not only undermine the work of the stakeholders but puts the country at risk of the COVID-19 spread.
“Arising from this, the commission would like to announce that Mr Kambwili has been suspended indefinitely, subject to review, from participating in any campaign activities in line with paragraph 11(i)(d) of the Electoral Code of Conduct.”
Nshindamo said ECZ was reviewing other cases before the commission.
“Appropriate action will be taken against any perpetrator of hate speech or indeed any other violation of the Electoral Code of Conduct.”
Police confirmed a report “expressing hatred, ridicule or contempt for persons because of race, place of origin or colour” had been opened in the capital, Lusaka, on Thursday.
Kambwili complained the ECZ had suspended him without according him a chance to explain himself.
Lungu, whose main challenger is UPND’s Haikande Hichilema, has come under pressure from within the ruling party to distance himself from the divisive politician.
He fired him as Information Minister in 2016, for alleged corruption.
Kambwili was expelled from the ruling party for allegedly destabilising it.
PF on Wednesday posted online, urging Zambians “Don’t Vote for Tribe or Community but for the Hand that Brings Stability.”
Zambia, the Southern African country of 18 million, has more than 70 tribes.
– CAJ News