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Zambia: civil society and the 20th September elections 0

As Zambia goes to the polls on Tuesday 20 September, most political parties are winding up their campaigns. In the last 20 years the country has had democratic contested elections at Presidential, Constituency and Local government level.

Though Zambia’s democracy is yet to mature, there has been a lot of progressive elements in terms of good governance, democratic process and advocacy related to participation of the general citizens in national matters.

Much of this work has been done by the civil society, who has been providing checks and balances on issues affecting the people.

The other role the civil society has been playing is urging electorates to take interest in matters affecting them and more importantly the scrutiny of people seeking political leadership every time there are elections.

In a run to next week’s election Caritas Zambia Executive Director Sam Mulafulafu called on Zambians to seize every opportunity that exposes them to information about aspiring candidates in the Presidential, Parliamentary, and Local Government elections.

Mulafulafu told the Zambian watchdog that: “Citizens must take advantage of radio and TV programs, and rallies where candidates are outlining their plans for the nation” and that “Voters should  be alert and scrutinise those vying for political office so that credible leaders with integrity are put in office on September 20 polls.”

Organisations, such as Caritas Zambia, have gone flat out in challenging not only politicians but also people of all walks of life to take part in issues related to governance and social justice.

A notable advocacy campaign took place in 2001 when CSOs played a pivotal role in ousting the then President Fredrick Chiluba who was seeking a third term in office.

During this first coordinated campaign, Oasis Forum – an alliance of the three biggest church bodies, the Catholic Zambia Episcopal Conference (ZEC), Council of Churches in Zambia (CCZ), Evangelical Fellowship of Zambia (EFZ), the NGO Coordinating Committee(NGOCC), and the Law Association of Zambia – was founded.

The other organisation which has played a hand in adding more weight to the voice of the CSOs is the  Citizen’s Forum which has been commended for its stance on the ongoing Constitution debate.

Through its executive secretary, Simon Kabanda the Citizen’s Forum recently wrote a letter to the two leading presidential contenders Rupiah Banda and Michael Sata, asking them to sign social contracts on the constitution-making process.

“The Social Contract at this stage is to give confidence to the electorate as they cast their vote for you on the basis of your promise to give them the kind of constitution that they want.” Reads the letter in part.

“ After the elections the Social Contract will be the tool the electorate will use to monitor the finalisation of the constitution-making process.”

Although the civil society has on several occasion, accused of involving themselves in politics, the Oasis Forum and the Citizens Forum have not relented but they have become one of the strongest advocates for constitutional changes and calling for a strong legislation on corruption.

The government has also accused Church leaders of leaving their work to get involved in politics. However the Church has said they are called to stand for the people, especially for the voiceless.

Meanwhile, the Zambia Association of the Blind, an NGO which promotes the involvement of the blind persons in national programmes, has commended the Electoral Commission of Zambia, (ECZ) for coming up with braille templates for the presidential ballot papers in next Tuesdays polls.

Association Secretary for Social Affairs Clement Chanda said: “ The move will increase transparency of voting among the visually impaired who have, for a long time, faced difficulties in the exercise.”

In an interview with the Zambia news agency ZANIS Chanda also said that development  which has been overdue would be the ultimate alternative and means of restricting people from misleading the visually impaired in polling booths.

“Voting is a very sensitive exercise which makes it difficult to easily entrust someone to vote on your behalf or assist you” he says. “Although there is limited time I also appeal to the ECZ to further devise a programme aimed at sensitising the visually impaired on how to use the templates correctly.”

Chanda also appealed to the physically challenged persons across the country to turn out en masse and cast their votes in next Tuesday’s polls.

By Joe M. L. Kaluba – Afronline

Other Interesting related links on Zambia’s elections and the CSO click the links below

IPS Africa,   ISS,   Lusaka TimesAll Africa, Times of Zambia, The Post Zambia News Africa.com,

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