SOLWEZI Central parliamentary aspirant Joseph Milner Katolo says abandoning the old voter’s register to start afresh has raised suspicion of rigging among the public.

In an interview, Katolo, who is also a renowned lawyer, said there was absolutely no need to discard the old voter’s register.

He said the law places a mandate on the Electoral Commission of Zambia to register and update the register.

“ECZ has issued notice to the public saying everyone must register even if you registered before. And if you don’t register now, you will not vote; that is where the issue of discarding the old voter’s register is coming from. There is absolutely no need,” he said. “The law, both the electoral process Act and electoral registration of voters regulations place a mandate on the Electoral Commission of Zambia to register and update the register. The expectations of Zambians this time was that the existing register would be updated.”

Katolo explained the process involved in updating the register as stipulated in the law.

‘’ And how is it updated? Firstly, you remove people that have died, change addresses for people that have relocated, you add new people that have gotten NRCs and people that are changing polling stations, you adjust…that is the updating that is there so that once it is updated and approved by all stakeholders, that is now the register that will be certified by the chief electoral officer, who is the CEO of ECZ that this is the register to be used for 2021,” Katolo explained. “It does not mean abandoning the old register to start afresh, as that raises suspicion of rigging by the public. And if I was at ECZ, I would want to stand tall and make sure that no one points a finger at me; just update the register as it is and certify it later for the elections. What are they afraid of? We want answers.”

He doubted the possibility of free and fair elections when stakeholders’ concerns were not addressed.

Katolo further cited the short period government has allocated to mobile issuance of national registration cards.

“As it stands, the question of a free and fair election raises so many issues because it starts with processes that build up to an election. The registering of voters itself, the issuance of national registration cards to citizens itself, all go towards a free and fair election,” he said. “We have heard so many complaints in opposition strongholds that very few days are spent there, excuses of machines breaking down and we had statistics that showed that pro-government strongholds had more people registering for NRCs and opposition strongholds very few people registered, why that imbalance?”

He also questioned home affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo’s fears whenever he saw opposition members of parliament visiting national registration centres when they were also stakeholders.

“When members of parliament in opposition strongholds tried to follow up on issuance of NRCs, which they have a right to do because they are government officials, there were threats by the Minister of Home Affairs that anyone interfering will be prosecuted, why that threat? What was the Minister of Home Affairs afraid of?” asked Katolo. “If he is transparent and has nothing to fear, he should actually commend those members of parliament that they were actually checking on his officers to ensure that they were doing their work because they are government workers by virtue of being MPs. They had the right to ensure that their people in their constituencies are given NRCs. When you now come to registration of voters, it also creates a lot of problems as there is now the introduced online voter’s registration and you and I know that very few people along the line of rail can be able to do that with the internet of smart phones.”


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