Banda threatens arrest for poll disruption
Lusaka - President Rupiah Banda on Monday made a stern call for peace as Zambians prepared to cast their votes in hotly contested elections that will see him face off on Tuesday against fiery rival Michael Sata.
The last contest between the two leaders - a 2008 race to fill the remainder of late president Levy Mwanawasa's term - saw days of rioting by Sata's supporters after he lost to Banda by two percentage points.
Banda said any acts of violence or intimidation around Tuesday's vote will be met with arrest and prosecution.
"To those who may be contemplating any illegal acts or intimidation or, even worse, physical violence, I have this message for you: I have ordered the police to arrest and prosecute all those who will offend," he said in a special address broadcast on national TV.
National police inspector general Francis Kabonde told journalists on Monday that as a security precaution he had ordered his officers to arrest anyone found in public with a slingshot, axe or other potential weapon.
Sata has alleged the 2008 election was rigged, and at the weekend accused Banda and his party, the Movement for Multi-party Democracy (MMD), of plotting to steal Tuesday's vote.
The opposition leader reacted indignantly Monday to Banda's call for peace.
"We are not violent, it is MMD who are violent," he told AFP.
In an interview published on Monday in the state-owned Zambia Daily Mail, Banda dismissed the opposition Patriotic Front (PF) leader's vote-rigging allegations.
"It is incumbent on those making these allegations to prove to the monitors how the elections will be rigged," he said.
Electoral Commission of Zambia spokesperson Chris Akufuna said there was no way the vote could be stolen.
"What the commission has put in place is really a transparent system where there will not be any space or chance for anyone to manipulate," he told journalists.
"The representatives of these political parties will be there, and they will be able to see what is happening on the ground."
Akufuna said election authorities plan to release the official results within 48 hours of the close of polls at 18:00 Tuesday.