from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – SO high are the stakes in Zambia’s upcoming election exercise that it will not only go down the annals of history as the most fiercely contested.
It will be etched in memory as one most dominated by downright propaganda and mudslinging that has come to define the two main rivals for the August 12 poll.
On eventful week during which the armed forces were deployed to boost police capacity to quell violence and a technology company was caught up in what has emerged as a controversial shipping of ballot papers, online posts by the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and opposition United Party for National Development (UPND) both posting the same man, reportedly arrested by the military took the cake.
Nothing out of the ordinary if a man is arrested for violence but posing of the same picture of the man by each part claiming he belonged to the other was astonishing.
He was pictured with a Halloween zombie mask and an assortment of weapons in the Kanyama area of the capital Lusaka.
PF identified him as “a UPND” thug involved in the killing of PF youths Danny Kasongo and Davies Kabunda, whose murder sparked the deployment of armed forces.
UPND identified the suspect as “a notorious PF cadre” arrested by the same army in Chibolya compound. He was said to have been terrorising the people in that area.
The fact that authorities could no ascertain the identity of the suspect added to the confusion in the Southern African country .
Mystery also arose during the arrival of the final batch of ballot papers at Kenneth Kaunda International Airport. Some private cargo was offloaded from the same cargo aircraft carrying the ballot papers.
A little known company has emerged to claim the consignment, consisting of mobile phones and accessories.
How these ended up on a plane carrying the ballot papers raised more mystery than met the eye but the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) downplayed the issue based on the fact that agents of all parties present witnessed the contents hence foul play on polls was ruled out.
But answers remained unobtainable as to how his cargo ended up on a chartered plane, specifically to carry ballot papers.
ECZ plans to withhold the phones and accessories tha the local company, Lee Bridge Limited, has claimed ownership of.
The company has obliged.
“On our part, we are ready to contribute to enhancement of integrity in elections by keeping the phones and accessories at the Kenneth Kaunda International Airport until after elections.”
The airline in question had not yet commented.
Meanwhile, mudslinging is on overdrive.
UPND claimed receiving information that PF members and police were planning on planting marijuana and offensive weapons at the UPND National youth secretariat in order to incriminate National youth Chairman, Gilbert Liswaniso, and other youths.
“It’s no secret that PF has launched a manhunt to arrest youth leaders and other influential leaders in a bid to reduce the strong current of the wavy blowing a wind of change across the country (Zambia),” UPND stated.
“It has been a trend under the PF administration to arrest party officials on trumped up charges simply to cut them off the campaigns.”
PF earlier claimed is rival (UPDN) par was planning havoc to have polls sopped in fear of defeat.
Opinion polls have added to the tensions.
One such, by an acclaimed pollster in the continent, concluded incumbent Edgar Lungu will retain power by a 500 000 vote margin over rival Haikande Hichilema.
They are two of 16 presidential contestants in the nation of over 18 million people.
Lungu won the previous poll in 2016 with a slim 100 000 margin, raising vote rigging allegations.
“The UPND and all Zambians will defend their vote to the fullest extent of the law and will ensure that the managers of the elections in this case the ECZ, delivers a correct reflection of the people’s will,” UPND Secretary General, Batuke Imenda, said.
The influential Catholic Church appealed for calm.
“Losing lives to the COVID-19 pandemic, and other hitherto existing causes is saddening. Losing lives due to politically charged activism is unacceptable and has to stop,” the church’s Chilekwa Mukongwe, said.
The United Nations is also concerned.
“There is no justification to indulge in violence, kill or harm another person or destroy property to settle political differences in a multiparty democracy,” said Coumba Mar Gadio, UN Resident Coordinator in Zambia.
– CAJ News