Zambia is fast-tracking its political party finance legislation.
Having successfully co-hosted the second Summit for Democracy (March 29-30, 2023), Zambia is now turning its attention to fast-tracking the political party finance bill amid contestation mounted by political parties. The main bone of contention is the provision on disclosure of sources of political party funds and amount thereof.
Secrets Known understands that it was one of the campaign promises of president Hakainde Hichilema who took office on 24th August 2021 for a five-year presidential term. If Zambia has to keep its place as the beacon of democracy in Africa, it must out of necessity institute a robust legal and institutional framework to regulate money in political parties, election campaigns and other democratic activities.
Transparency International Zambia’s Programs Manager Raymond Mutale revealed that the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Justice, Republic of Zambia, is one of the champions of the bill. Mutale was speaking as a panelist during the breakaway session of the Pre-Summit for Democracy Africa Citizens Summit in Defence of Democracy which was organised on Partners for Democracy Day – March 27, 2023, in Lusaka Zambia.
Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) is emphasizing the need for the Zambian electorate to know the sources of funding for political parties and candidates because, during the 2021 general elections, the volume of money that circulated in election campaigns was mind-baffling.
Hon. Kanungwe Chota, the youngest female mayor in Zambia, overseeing Kanchibiya district, one of the largest districts by land size, informed Secrets Known that she does not consider handouts to voters as a form of vote buying. She revealed that she gave out a plethora of branded kitenge (African print) materials to the electorate during her campaigns ahead of the elections in August 2021. “The candidates who gave out more kitenge and T-Shirts went on to win the elections”, she said. Campaign finance support for women candidates is critical in Africa.
TI-Z and other pro-democracy activists in Zambia are now tasking political parties and former candidates to explain where they got money from. “We are suspecting that most of the money used in the 2021 campaigns was from dirty sources”, Mutale argued. He added that unregulated political party financing and campaign spending can be a conduit for illicit financial flows, lead to the capture of political parties and ultimately lead to state capture.
Alliance for Finance Monitoring (ACFIM), the Pan-African political finance watchdog, is calling on the African Union and the regional economic communities namely; ECOWAS, EAC, and SADC), to develop joint standards on financing political parties, election campaigns, and referenda.
Electoral management bodies (EMBs) are also being urged to take keen interest in enforcing the political finance provisions in the electoral laws including on voter bribery, in their respective jurisdictions. It is the role of institutions that have the mandate to regulate political finance, to do their part in insulating democratic processes from the negative influence of unregulated money in politics.