By Idah Mhetu
ZAMBIA can learn lessons on conducting free and fair elections from its southern neighbour, President Edgar Lungu has said.
“We must not feel shy to learn from one another,” President Lungu said Sunday in Harare where he attended the inauguration of President Emmerson Mnangagwa.
Lungu took over power after the death of Michael Sata, barely winning the presidential by-election in 2015 by 27,757 votes (1.66%) over main rival Hakainde Hichilema.
Fresh elections for a full term were then held the following year and Lungu again scrapped through with 50.32% of the vote, beating Hichilema by just 2.72%.
Hichilema refused to accept defeat and challenged the results at the Constitutional Court which dismissed the case.
Similarly, Mnangagwa took over power last November to finish the term of long-time ruler Robert Mugabe who had been toppled by a military coup.
The Zanu PF leader barely avoided a run-off vote after winning the July 30 by 50.8 percent against 44.3 for main rival Nelson Chamisa who also challenged the outcome at Harare’s Constitutional Court.
The case was dismissed for lack evidence, allowing Mnangagwa to be inaugurated last Sunday.
“Zimbabwe is a student of Zambia on how to conduct a peaceful election,” said President Lungu as he congratulated Mnangagwa.
“We really need to praise Zimbabwe for the strides it has made in bringing peace in the country.”
Lungu has been accused of unleashing a crackdown against the opposition with Hichilema spending a spell in prison on treason charges after he allegedly blocked the presidential motorcade.
The Zambian government also returned home Zimbabwean opposition leader Tendai Biti after rejecting his application for political asylum following the July 30 elections.
Although lead-up to the ballot was relatively peaceful with the opposition allowed to campaign around the country, deadly violence rocked Harare after the results were announced.
The Mnangagwa administration unleased the military on opposition supporters resulting in solders firing into the crowds leaving six people dead and several others injured.
The killings were widely condemned by western countries.