NO POLITICAL party has ever shamed Zambia the way the Patriotic Front is at the moment by trying to buy off Socialist Party election candidates, party general secretary and first vice-president Cosmas Musumali told a televised and radio broadcast press conference.
Speaking at Kingfisher Garden Court in Lusaka – where only days before the party’s latest candidates had been celebrated – Dr Musumali said he was sorry to have to share “a massive, malicious, targeted buying off of our candidates happening on an unprecedented large scale”.
He said first reports of an approach by the PF at Luapula had been treated by the party as “just one of those issues, uncomfortable, but we have at times unruly adversaries who see solutions in buying people”.
The parliamentary candidate had been offered 200,000 Kwacha (US$9,015) to stand down. But since then there had been a total of 17 incidents involving 25 candidates – eight as MPs and 17 local councillors – touching all provinces except Southern.
“The impression we are getting is that this is well coordinated and well funded,” Dr Musumali said. “This cannot be the work of a few misguided individuals in the PF, this is something that is coordinated from the top.”
He said the approaches involved constituency level officials, civil servants, district commissioners, and intelligence officers, who were “basically blackmailing people to step down”. “You also have potential PF candidates participating in this, everyone is involved in it.”
Dr Musumali said cash offers ranged from 100,000 Kwacha (US$4,500) to 250,000 Kwacha (US$11,248), but there were also other bribes.
“If you are building a house they will offer you bricks or plumbing materials, they will offer you iron sheets and so forth,” he said.
The inducements also took the form of job offers. “Our trained teachers standing to be members of parliament are being told, ‘if you step down we will deploy you’,” Dr Musumali said. “Some of these people have been without jobs for the past four or five years, but now they are being assured they will get jobs. All they have to do is step down. Some of our youngest candidates are being told, ‘we will reserve a university place for you’. This is serious, extremely serious. Jobs are for sale, school places are for sale.”
Dr Musumali said that, in addition to coaxing SP candidates to cease campaigning, the corrupt PF tricksters were also taking a more sinister approach. “In one case, the candidate was told, ‘go ahead, but slow down with your campaign. On the nomination day, don’t appear. That way the Socialist Party will not have a parliamentary candidate’.”
Dr Musumali told his TV and radio audience that the Zambian people were being insulted by the dirty tricks campaign.
“The Socialist Party came to you and asked for candidates. We worked together for weeks, for months, and you provided us with the candidates,” he said.
“Today you are being insulted, your poverty is being used against you. Your suffering is being used against you. The people you gave us to represent you in parliament have become attractive, not attractive in that they are going to save you, but attractive as commodities. They are on the market. They are for sale. This is unacceptable.”
Dr Musumali said there was “a great possibility that this won’t stop and a high probability that we will lose some of our candidates”.
“So far, the 25 candidates have done well, except one, and we are investigating the case of Mufumbwe, our adopted MP, and this is a very sad situation.
“To those comrades who were entrusted by the masses of our country to represent them and who are today being bought for pieces of silver, we wish them good luck. But what they should know is that they are betraying the Zambian masses who put trust in them.”
Dr Musumali said that if the PF saw itself as the strongest party in the country and thought it was performing well, why did it have to sink to such a low level?
“This is stooping very low,” he said. “It’s unacceptable, it’s a mockery of our democracy, it’s big shame for this country. No political party has shamed this country as you are doing. Stop it!”