When Supreme Court Judge Elizabeth Muyovwe confirmed the High Court judgement nullification of Dora Siliya’s 2011 election as Petauke Central Member of Parliament, she said there was overwhelming evidence of widespread corruption in the run up to the election.
Similarly, Kapembwa Simbao lost his Senga Hill seat on the MMD ticket in a petition filed by Giles Yambayamba on grounds that there was a number of electoral malpractices. The petitioner had contended that the election had been characterized by widespread undue influence, bribery, intimidation, voter treating and electoral malpractices.Make no mistake about it, many more MPs, especially from the opposition, have lost their seats on grounds among them corruption and abusing the electoral process. But what is of interest, however, is that the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) through its then Secretary General Wynter Kabimba tried to block the re-contesting of the seats by those whose seats had been nullified.
It is no wonder that the by-elections for Petauke Central, Malambo and Mulobezi constituencies took nearly two years to be held instead of the normal 90 days within a seat being declared vacant either by the High Court when there is no contest, or the Supreme Court when the lower court’s judgment is contested or if the vacancy is caused other circumstances such as death.
I know that the PF has not, since it came into power in September 2011, issued any strong anti-corruption statement. The closest the late President Michael Sata came close to issuing any statement concerning the vice was when he said that if the Anti-Corruption Commission wanted to investigate senior government officials like ministers they needed to seek permission from him.
This was at the height of allegations and counter-allegations between once powerful Kabimba and former Defence Minister Geoffrey Bwalya Mwamba accusingeach other of impropriety.
As an outsider, it is difficult to say with certainty why the PF adopted Siliya and Simbao but it is clear that the ruling party knows the type of electorate they deal with, people who do not question decisions made for them. In other jurisdictions, the mere nullification of an MP’s seat on account of what Siliya and Simbao’s seats were nullified, their names would not appear on the next ballot paper and other future ballot papers.
It should be pointed out however that the fact that Siliya and Simbao won the by-election on the ruling party ticket despite the baggage from the petition shows that they are strong candidates in themselves.
But adopting the two apparently sends a message that corruption is ok as long as you belong to the ruling party. I mean how does one explain the fact that the PF petitioned more than 50 opposition seats, costly by-elections held and the ruling party started adopting opposition members who had lost seats at its behest.
All I can say is that it’s corruption what won, not the PF.