Zambia opposition parties are accusing the ruling Movement for Multiparty Democracy (MMD) of vote buying ahead of this month's presidential election. The opposition parties say government's sudden release of funds yesterday (Thursday) estimated at several billion Kwacha for development activities in communities across the country is a calculated attempt to influence the election. But the government dismissed the accusations saying community development cannot wait. Richard Mulonga is a Zambian journalist. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from the capital, Lusaka that the timing of the development funds is generating controversy.
"That is true because the opposition parties were yesterday saying the government is trying to hoodwink voters into voting for the ruling party candidate Rupiah Banda. Yesterday, the government announced the release of Constituency Development Funds amounting to billions of Kwacha. But the opposition parties and other stakeholders have rejected the move saying why should the government release this money now instead of before or after the election. They are saying the fact that the government is releasing the funds during this campaign period it is trying to work on the minds of the voters," Mulonga noted.
He said some observers see the government's action as a political ploy to garner votes for the ruling party in this month's presidential election.
"They think that the move intends to make the ruling party's presidential candidate look as if he is the working man trying to solve the country's problems. And that Rupiah Banda (the ruling party's presidential candidate) is the only man who can bring development to Zambia. So, the voters should go out in their numbers and vote for him," he said.
Mulonga said the controversy surrounding the community development fund could influence the election.
"That is an open ended question, which can go either way because some people believe that the government is going to deliver if they vote for Rupiah Banda. They are arguing that development cannot wait just because there is an imminent election and that the government has got to do its work. But I also agree with those who say that the move can attract voters to swing to the ruling party," Mulonga pointed out.
He said there seems to be a keen interest in this month's presidential election.
"People have been following this subject from the time the president died, Dr. Patrick Levy Mwanawasa because we are talking about 400 billion Kwacha ($106 000,000,000) for the election, which is quite a lot of money coming from the treasury of Zambia. So, we had a briefing yesterday from the electoral commissioner of Zambia, Justice Florence Mumba who told reporters that the government has provided the electoral commission with a substantial amount for the elections. And the cooperating partners through the United Nations Development program have also contributed money towards the election," he said.
Mulonga said Zambians are expressing confidence then election would not be hindered because of help coming from the international community.
"So, Zambians are quite clear that the election would proceed and all the financial hiccups that were expected have been handled. So, now people are more optimistic and are just watching the candidates and deciding who is going to sell their manifesto and who is going to be the best leader for Zambia," Mulonga pointed out.
He said the electoral commission is being proactive to pluck loopholes to prevent vote rigging in the election.
"Those are some of the issues, but the electoral commission has been emphasizing that the electoral system of Zambia cannot accommodate rigging because it is quite secure. They have actually asked all the players to send monitors who would monitor the results of the election in various constituencies for their various parties in this month's presidential election," he said.