Bt Fred M’membe President of the Socialist Party
While the assurance or promise by the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Charity Katanga, to level the politically play field as far as the administration of the public order Act is concerned is welcome, it has come rather late.
Deputy inspector general Katanga says police will not allow a situation where one political party monopolises holding of campaigns ahead of the presidential and general elections.
This was supposed to be the policy and practice of the police over the past five years and not just over 30 days to August 12, 2021.
And given the record of the police, as we know it, we doubt the police’s ability to deliver on this assurance or promise of a level political play field.
There’s indeed a need to level the political playing field so that no political party has the advantage of running downhill against opponents who are handicapped by having to run uphill. Arguably, one way to ensure that each party and each candidate is treated fairly is to provide precisely the same opportunities as they all require an equal opportunity to put their case to the voters.
An uneven playing field is a central component of this regime’s political survival strategy. In today’s Zambia multiparty, democratic competition is undermined not only by fraud or repression but also by unfair administration of the public order Act, unequal access to resources, public media, and state institutions.
When opposition is denied the right to hold rallies, meetings, access to public mass media, their ability to compete in elections—and survive between elections—is often impaired.
Where the playing field is skewed, the weakening, collapse, and/or cooptation of parties may effectively depopulate the opposition, even in the absence of large-scale repression. A skewed playing field may thus allow this autocratic regime to maintain power without resorting to the kind of fraud or repression that can undermine its international standing, allowing it, in effect, to its cake and eat it too.