Election Jitters: Suspected Ballot Papers Turn Furniture

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Zambian opposition United Party for National Development dripped with acute embarrassing Monday when its vociferous claim that the cargo in three trucks hired by the Electoral Commission of Zambia contained ballot papers to be used to rig the January 20, 2015 presidential election turned out to be false.

Having trailed the trucks for days from the border with South Africa on suspicion of carrying illegal ballot papers, UPND cadres forcibly intercepted the trucks in Lusaka and forced the drivers to drive to the Lusaka Central Police Station for inspection.

Appeals for calm by police officers to await the arrival of ECZ officials fell on deaf ears as senior UPND officials ranted how they had always lost elections through rigging and were no longer going to allow it this year.

The election is scheduled for January 20, 2015 in compliance with the law that elections must be held within 90 day after the death of a sitting President. Former President Sata died in office in October 2014.

Lusaka lawyer Martha Mushipe, who is also a UPND senior member, accused the ECZ of wanting to rig the election.

“That is why we lose every time. We are not going to allow this to happen. We are here and we will not go anywhere until we see what these two trucks are carrying. We are not going to allow them to rig the election this time around,” said an emotional Mushipe as she made phone calls to alert other members of the party to rush to the police station.

 “Just come now. You will be surprised… In fact, you will faint when you see what is happening here. That is why we lose elections.”

When UPND leader William Banda arrived at the police station and urged the cadres to leave the station he was accused of being a traitor to the party.

 “Just calm down. You don’t even know what these trucks are carrying. What if they are not ballot papers? What are you going to do and you are the only party that is here. How will people look at us?” he asked.

“We are not going anywhere. We are going to sleep, eat, and do everything here until we see what the trucks are carrying,” said UPND women affairs chairlady Namakau Kabwiku.

The two trucks were later moved to the ECZ offices, where the cargo was inspected and discovered to be batteries, folding tables and chairs for the Commission.

ECZ public relations manager Cris Akufuna described the UPND’s behaviour as unfair.

“They have seen that there is nothing in here. I think we must take responsibility as leaders of political parties. We have nothing to hide. We have been accused before and no one has proved any allegation. Even when people accuse us, let them accuse us genuinely and with evidence, not based on rumour,” Akufuna said.

“We are endangering the lives of people that are managing these processes. To bring a whole horde of cadres to come and follow these things is not fair on us. We think we should be left alone as a Commission to conduct our business because we know best what we do; not to be accused of carrying ballot papers in batteries, table and chairs,” he said.

He Akafuna disclosed that political parties had been invited for verification of ballot papers at the ECZ warehouse in Silverest area and that the exercise would take four days to complete.

However, UPND deputy spokesperson Edwin Lifwekelo said they were satisfied that they had inspected the trucks.

“What has happened today emanates from the fact that we as UPND have an anti-rigging squad. There are some people that have been following these trucks from the time they started off from South Africa. In the spirit of accountability and transparency, it is important that we need to be alert,” Lifwekelo said.

“There will be suspicions so it is entirely up to the ECZ to exhibit transparency and accountability as is required by the electoral Act. We are not saying that the ECZ are conniving with a political party to rig the election. We did this because we were informed that the trucks were not scanned at the Chirundu border because they were a special delivery to ECZ,” said Lifwekelo.

Frustrated UPND cadres later started insulting journalists, accusing them of supporting the PF and Edgar Lungu, the ruling Zambia Patriotic Front leader.

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