|FILE PHOTO: Zambia's President Rupiah
Lusaka — Zambia's campaign
period closed this morning ahead of Tuesday's heavily contested presidential
elections that will be held simultaneously with parliamentary and local
President Rupiah Banda, facing his tightest competition,
dismissed main rival Michael Sata's claims he wants to rig the polls and challenged
the opposition leader to produce evidence as the duo held their last rallies on
Commission of Zambia (ECZ) director Priscilla Isaacs announced a two-day
"cooling period" before the electorate cast their ballots, saying candidates
must stop campaigning, distributing campaign materials and that the media must
not broadcast or publish campaign-related materials.
electoral violence, Zambia Police banned the sale of machetes, axes and
'illegal' brew while Zambia Breweries—a subsidiary of SABMiller—announced it
would not distribute beer on polling and subsequent days to minimize consumption
Mr Sata, wrapping up his appeal for votes in Central and
Northern provinces, accused incumbent Banda and the ruling Movement for
Multiparty Democracy (MMD) of plotting to rig the elections.
supporters to sleep at polling stations a night before and after voting to
ensure "their votes" were not stolen, again.
Mr Sata narrowly lost to
then vice-president Banda by a paltry 35, 000 votes in the 2008 polls,
occasioned by the death of incumbent Levy Mwanawasa, meant to finish his
remaining three years. He claimed he was robbed of votes.
Both aged 74,
this might be Sata and Banda's last attempt at the presidency and it is a
Mr Sata, running for the top job for the fourth time,
campaigns on pro-poor basis and emphasis on empowering the masses and reduction
Mr Sata—tipped to pull a win based on his huge rallies kept
buoyant with his oratory—has a support base among the poor urban, unemployed
youths, large Bemba-speaking community and, now, influential ex-Banda
He has fielded two sons of former presidents, Mr Mwanawasa and
Kenneth Kaunda, as parliamentary candidates.
Hundreds of cheering
supporters welcomed Mr Banda, riding in the ruling party's blue-white colours
branded bus, on his last leg of campaigns in Lusaka's Mandevu slam where he
promised to uplift the lives of dwellers, improve infrastructure, woo investment
and create jobs for all Zambians.
The President rebuked Mr Sata over
rigging allegations: "I challenge him directly and publicly, if you have real
proof, go to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, go to the police, go to the
international observers and produce that proof. Don't just talk about rigging.
Prove it!" said President Banda, ending his 60th and final rally.
truth is simple; on Tuesday Zambians will reject him, again. It will be time for
him to retire."
The Banda campaign team has attracted accusations of
infiltrating mobile phone networks and sending unsolicited campaign messages
that read: "For security, stability and prosperity — join the winning team. Make
your vote for RB count on 20 September president for all
President Banda banks on the country's economic growth, bumper
maize harvest, hastily built infrastructure and jobs created under his
three-year reign to get a second but first full five-year term.
latest opinion poll tipped him to win, but with a possibility of an upset from
Mr Sata due to a high number of undecided voters.
President Banda enjoys
support in his homeland of Eastern Province, parts of central, northern,
southern, western and north western while Mr Sata controls the populous
Copperbelt and Lusaka provinces, as well as his homeland of Northern and Luapula
provinces, parts of central and several other urban regions.
largest opposition leader, 49-year-old business tycoon, economist-cum
politician, Hakainde Hichilema of the United Party for National Development (UPND),
told an overcrowded rally in Lusaka he was "God-chosen to rule Zambia" after the
Tuesday polls, saying the "tired 74-year-olds must retire."
supporters chanted: "we want change!" "I will give you jobs because I know how
to create jobs," said Hichilema, running for the third time. "Don't vote for
Edith Nawakwi, 52, is the lone-female candidate in the
race of 10 candidates.