If Uganda Did It We Can Also ‘Did It’-Zambia Switches Off Social Media Amidst Bloody Presidential Polls

If Uganda Did It We Can Also ‘Did It’-Zambia Switches Off Social Media Amidst Bloody Presidential Polls

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By Spy Uganda Correspondent

Lusaka: Despite total internet shut down, Zambians yesterday turned up in large numbers and kept voting at jammed polling stations after polls closed in a battle between President Edgar Lungu and main opposition rival Hakainde Hichilema that looks too tight to call.

Polls officially closed at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) but voters were still casting ballots at many stations in Lusaka as darkness fell. The law allows those in the queue to vote after the official close of polls.

But as millions cast their ballots, social media platforms were restricted in the country, internet blockage observatory NetBlocks said.

“Real-time network data confirm that social media and messaging platforms including Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Messenger are now restricted in #Zambia on election day in addition to the earlier WhatsApp restriction,” NetBlocks said in a tweet.

The restriction of internet access could fuel tension and suspicion about the outcome of the vote.

Lungu said in a statement late Thursday he had directed the army to send reinforcements to three provinces where violence had broken out and a provincial chairman of his ruling party had been killed.

He blamed the violence on the opposition and said that it had meant the vote in those provinces was not free or fair.

Lungu and Hichilema voted at different stations earlier and were both confident of winning the vote. The close contest, however, raised the possibility of a run-off.

ECZ says it expects to declare a winner within 72 hours after polls close.

The winner of the election faces the task of steering Zambia’s flagging economy, which became the continent’s first country during the coronavirus pandemic to default on its sovereign debt in November.

J.P. Morgan said in a note that the election process could drag on for weeks, potentially stalling much-needed economic reform execution and negotiations with the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

Zambia, Africa’s second-largest copper producer, owes in excess of $12 billion to external creditors and spends 30%-40% of its revenues on interest payments on its debt, credit rating firm S&P Global estimates.

In-office since 2015, 64-year-old Lungu narrowly defeated Hichilema, the CEO of an accountancy firm before entering politics, in a disputed election the following year.

The president has touted the new road, airport and energy projects he has overseen as laying the groundwork for economic development and growth. But so far his debt-financed infrastructure splurge has failed to pay economic dividends, and unemployment remains high.

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