By GRACE CHAILE LESOETSA
THE Ndola High Court has refused to grant UPND leave to apply for judicial review of the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s decision to ban campaign rallies.
The court ruled that the decision by ECZ to ban campaign rallies owing to an upsurge in Covid-19 cases was not capricious and was done within the law.
It has however granted the opposition party leave to apply for judicial review in respect of ECZ not allocating time on public radio, television and electronic media to political parties and independent candidates to canvass.
The court stated that the prescription of airtime on public media to all participating political parties and independent candidates was necessary to enable all players equal campaign opportunities.
In this matter, the UPND sued ECZ and Government seeking judicial review over the decision to ban campaign rallies.
The party also wanted ECZ to allocate time on public radio, television and electronic media to political parties and independent candidates to campaign.
The party wanted the court to declare the decision by ECZ to ban campaign rallies during the “campaign period” leading to the August 12 general elections capricious and illegal.
In her ruling yesterday, Judge Mary Mulanda stated that the decision by ECZ to ban campaign rallies was not arbitrary but that it was mandated to allocate time on public media for all parties to campaign.
“I am not satisfied that there is a case fit for further investigation at a full inter partes hearing,” Ms Mulanda said.
Mr Bukata Imenda suing in his capacity as party General Secretary had stated that the purported reason by ECZ that the rallies pose a health risk or an upsurge in the wake of Covid-19 pandemic is neither anchored on nor authorised by any provisions of legislation that govern the establishment and operation of the commission.
Mr Imenda stated that the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) that prescribe the holding of rallies are not provided for in the ECZ Act no. 25 of 2016 (as amended by Act No.5 of 20190 as read with the provisions of the Electoral Process Act no.35 of 2016.
The UPND was represented by Messrs M Associates, Muleza Mwiimbu and Associates, Messrs Malambo and Company and A Mbambara Legal Practitioners.