HAKAINDE Hichilema says the Electoral Commission of Zambia is exhibiting draconian behaviour with regard to the voter registration process.

And NDC leader Chishimba Kambwili says one does not need to be a rocket scientist to realise that the current group of ECZ commissioners are arrogant and not fit to run the commission.

Meanwhile, Green Party president Peter Sinkamba has said the ECZ commissioners should be removed as they will cause anarchy if left unchecked.

But PeP leader Sean Tembo said, “The conduct of individuals such as UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema, NDC’s Chishimba Kambwili and MMD’s Nevers Mumba of late has the potential to bring out anarchy and jeopardise the continuity of this Republic. It is therefore our appeal to these gentlemen that they stop practicing a scorched earth policy in their politics failure to which they need to be able to bear the consequences of their actions”.

Tembo, who says Hichilema’s political fortunes have dwindled, urges the ECZ to ignore the noise that “embattled politicians like HH and CK are making, and just focus on doing their job. Those guys are simply making advance excuses for their potential loss next year…the system that we have created for ourselves as the Zambian people we must not allow a few embattled politicians whose shelf life has long expired to usurp this system”.

Speaking on Diamond Television special live discussion regarding the various aspects of the voter registration exercise, UPND leader Hichilema said the ECZ will create a constitutional crisis because it is operating outside the law by its insistence on doing away with the current voters’ register, among other things.

He insisted that Zambians should not allow some people rig next year’s elections.

“We must call things by their right names, it’s inappropriate to call it that we are crying…nobody is crying. We are demanding our rights as citizens that any electoral process, any elections must be free and fair. And an election is not an event, it’s not a day’s activity. An election is a process and what we are experiencing here is a process which is flawed and its evidently so, starting with the issuance of the National Registration Cards. You can see, you can hear the flaws that are there,” Hichilema said. “Citizens are complaining over this document which is a constitutional right, which confers evidence that they are citizens of Zambia and allows them to participate fully as citizens of this country. Not just voting but indeed other rights: drivers licence, education, jobs, and loans. You need title deeds, you need the NRC.”

Hichilema wondered why it was a problem to give Zambians their identity cards which is constitutional.

He further said the NRC is the one that allows a Zambian to exercise their right to vote, thus one cannot describe their demand as crying foul.

“You have the voter registration process which is clearly flawed. Here we are talking about what qualifies the 2021 elections free and fair and indeed credible and all of us must be concerned about these issues so indeed it cannot be defined as crying foul. We are not crybabies. We are asking for the conferment of citizens constitutional rights and a process that will not favour any player,” Hichilema said. “Any participant must actually be respected and if the institution that we mandate to look after the elections on our behalf is acting or behaving in a manner that suggests some bias, we must talk about those issues. Citizens must talk about those issues without fear and favour. I have a number of issues I want raised but having already said, there are flaws in the all electoral process and we cannot standby and wait for 2021. It means we would have been basically participants in the rigging of the elections.”

The UPND leader said the ECZ should not dictate what it wants to happen in the electoral process.

He reminded viewers that the ECZ was a creation of the people of Zambia but lamented that what has been witnessed in the commission was a “draconian behaviour” where they want to decide what should happen in the electoral process.

Hichilema added that the people wanted ECZ to manage the elections and electoral process in a free and fair manner and within the law.

“ECZ works for the people of Zambia and that message must go and sink in the minds of those that are running the ECZ. They (ECZ) must act within the laws and remain impartial. They must not be biased and appear to be favouring one or more of the competitors,” he said.

Hichilema said it is wrong for ECZ to start having or addressing joint press briefings with the ruling PF but must instead do it with all stakeholders in the electoral process.

Hichilema said the ECZ must be reminded that they work for the people of Zambia and their behaviour of acting like it’s the citizens that work for the commission must cease.

“In the years he [Patriots for Economic Progress leader Sean Tembo] talked about, the history of new voter registration cannot apply, and the law does not work in retrospect. The electoral process in 2016 was devised to deal with the ills of the past. Ills of the past included always starting a new voters’ register…we should not do that because it wastes scarce resources, it creates this pressure point all the time and that is why there is a provision for a continuous voter registration. It was not there before in the years he is talking about. Sean Tembo my brother, please understand that, don’t mislead the people of Zambia. It’s very important that we as leaders don’t mislead the people of Zambia and those that claim to be leaders,” Hichilema said.

He recalled that there was a change in the law as the country used to have a presidential by-election but that Zambians decided that it was too expensive and therefore changed the law to provide for a running mate.

Hichilema said the ECZ was attempting to disenfranchise citizens without recourse.

“In a draconian way they want to remove us who registered as voters between 2011 and now, yet we registered under the law and willy-nilly because they are acting on behalf of the competitor. They now must remove citizens including those who live outside the country who cannot afford to come here to register,” Hichilema said.

He noted that even if one registers online now, they will still be required to physically verify the new records.

“Let me remind citizens and indeed the ECZ, if chaos arises in this country because you are mismanaging the electoral process, you will be held accountable. Today (Wednesday) you called for an emergency meeting. All of us geared to attend the meeting but because a sidekick decision was made so that citizens don’t air their views about the flaws in the electoral process and registration, including NRC insurance which is a function that leads to being a voter, you cancel the meeting because an instruction has come,” said Hichilema. “This is rigging the elections and I want to appeal to the people of Zambia that do not sit and watch people rigging the election and therefore that’s where the constitutional crisis will come from. It will be on the heads of ECZ and those in government.”

On his part, Kambwili said Zambians won’t accept people abrogating their own provisions, saying as long as the law says there will be continuous voter registration, no institution or individual has the power to disfranchise any citizen.

He insisted that people who were on the voters’register from the time the Constitution was signed in 2015 must continue being on the roll and then additional people may be added.

Kambwili said to wait until there was a crisis as suggested by Tembo was poor leadership and management.

“Today they issued a statement that the voters’ roll was suggested by political parties; where did they meet the political parties? Why did they call a meeting with stakeholders who are political parties if they had already made the decision? They were claiming that they met political parties, the stakeholders who suggested that we need a new voters’ roll, so what is more important between stakeholders telling you what to do against the law or you following the law?” he asked. “We have made it very clear here that the calls for continuous voter registration… How you remove the dead people people from the roll is an issue of ECZ. They must find a way of removing the dead people, they are not going to remove the people who are still living on the pretext of removing the dead ones. Like president HH said, we have registered voters who live outside the borders of this country. Surely are they going to find the money and time to leave their jobs to be coming for registering every after five years?” Kambwili said having voter registration every time there is an election is retrogressive.

He noted that in 2001 and before 2011 the population was smaller and the target the ECZ wanted to register was equally smaller, yet the time frame for registering was three months.

“You must be out of your mind to think that a programme that was taking three months to register a few people can now take one month to register more people,” he said.

Kambwili said it was an insult to hear someone who doesn’t take part in elections say “these people’s electability” is dwindling.

“In this country there are two types of politicians: there are some of us who want to elect and participate in elections in this country and there are those who are just armchair critics and claim that they win elections by never participating in any election – not even a ward election or constituency election,” he said. “So it is painful for someone who doesn’t participate in elections and is always an armchair critic to be telling you that you cannot be elected when we have representation in parliament, he doesn’t even have a councillor. So when we are talking, let’s have respect for one another.”

Kambwili wondered why the ECZ wants to spend more money printing new cards and paying wages to personnel when the country’s financial position was dire.

He said those in leadership were insisting on the new voters’ roll because they wanted to give contracts to their friends to print new cards when there was absolutely no need for the exercise.

Kambwili said his arguments together with other like minds was based on the law and that those wanting to do away with the current voters’ register were doing it outside the law.

“And for once, respect those that want to follow the law. If you think you can do things with impunity and not follow the law, then Zambia is not your place,” said Kambwili. “What we are asking is within our rights as Zambians. What is difficult with ECZ giving Zambians three months to register? Let them give the normal period they have always given which is three months and let people go to the registration centre, leave the existing register without tampering with it.”

Green Party president Sinkamba wondered where the ECZ had gotten power to nullify existing the voters’ register and voter’s cards.

He said to be registered as a voter was not at the pleasure of the commission but a right enshrined in Article 46 of the Constitution, to be enjoyed by a citizen who is 18 years old and above.

Sinkamba said the Constitution did not provide for a registered voter to be deregistered, unless one was no longer a citizen of Zambia.

“ECZ appears to be in total disarray on what to do. There are almost six million people existing in the register now and another three million who are eligible to register and they are telling us that they can do it in 30 days which is total nonsense. It can’t happen,” he argued. “We are getting worried that time is running very fast before we can have the next election which is August next year. Like I said earlier, if we continue with this kind of group which does not seem to understand what it’s doing and don’t know their limitations of power, this group is likely to cause acrimony in this country. We can have bloodshed when we are not supposed to do that.”

Sinkamba maintained that Zambia already has an existing register which by the electoral process Act indicates that it must be a continuous register.

He said to say the existing register is invalid and will not be used in the next election and voter’s cards would not be valid without any power to do so shows that there is a problem.

But stressing his argument yesterday, in a write up, Tembo said the explanations advanced by the ECZ on both the online voter pre-registration as well as on the issue of a new voters roll, are sound and valid to any reasonable person.

“Given the fact that the online voter pre-registration process is not final and it is also optional, the arguments that have been advanced by some of the opposition leaders that citizens in rural areas will be disenfranchised because they do not have smartphones nor internet, do not carry any water. That is because even if a citizen does not do the online voter pre-registration, they will still be able to register as a voter without any qualms,” he said. “On the issue of developing a new voters’ roll as opposed to updating the 2010 voters roll, we share the views of the Electoral Commission of Zambia that a fresh voters’ roll that is done from scratch is likely to be more accurate than updating the existing voters’ roll. That is because the existing voters’ roll is approximately 10 years old now and a significant number of the voters that were registered in 2010 might have died while others have since moved to other parts of the country. Therefore, updating the 2010 voters’ roll will present two fundamental problems; firstly we will have a significant number of dead people on the voters’ roll, especially given the fact that we have a manual and predominantly inaccurate records system for the deceased in Zambia, and secondly we are likely to have several duplicates for people that would have registered in 2010 but have relocated to other parts of the country and decide to register afresh even though they are already on the voters’ roll.”

Tembo said that would be a cumbersome and expensive process to clean up and validate the updated voters’ roll.

He said those problems would not arise if “we do a totally fresh voters roll”.

“…we have further noted with regret that some opposition leaders including UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema, NDC’s Chishimba Kambwili and MMD’s Nevers Mumba, have been conducting themselves in an unreasonable manner by seeking to create a narrative that everything about ECZ is wrong. These leaders have been condemning all the commissioners at ECZ, they have been condemning the Chief Electoral Officer, they have been condemning each and every activity undertaken by the Commission,” Tembo said. “To them, nothing and no one is good at ECZ. Everything is bad. These leaders have issued various statements to the effect that the electoral process is rigged and that the outcome of next year’s elections should not be relied upon.”

He said PeP are cognizant of the fact that the ECZ must be held accountable in the manner that they undertake the electoral process.

“However, even as we hold ECZ accountable, we ought to be wary of two things. Firstly, we must always endeavour to be reasonable in our criticism of the Commission. For example, there is nothing worth criticizing the Commission about with regard to either the online voter pre-registration process or the plan for a new voters’ roll, because the explanations that have been consistently and continuously put forward by the Commission are perfectly reasonable,” he argued. “Secondly, even as we criticise the Electoral Commission of Zambia, we need to resist the temptation to usurp the powers of the Commission. The Constitution of Zambia only gives one body the power to organise and manage elections in Zambia. And that body is not UPND, nor NDC nor MMD. Indeed, the only body entrusted with managing elections in this country is the Electoral Commission of Zambia. That is the system that we have created for ourselves as the Zambian people, and we must not allow a few embattled politicians, whose shelf life has long expired, to usurp this system.”

Tembo noted that political parties were stakeholders to the electoral process.

“But every stakeholder must know their boundaries. Being a stakeholder does not mean that you are the owner of the process. You are merely a concerned party whose opinions must be heard and considered. Favourably or otherwise,” Tembo said. “As Patriots for Economic Progress, it is our considered view that some of these opposition political party leaders including UPND’s Hakainde Hichilema, NDC’s Chishimba Kambwili and MMD’s Nevers Mumba, are hell-bent on causing confusion and anarchy ahead of next year’s general elections, so that they can create advance excuses to give to their supporters for their likely poor performance in next year’s elections. However, labeling the electoral process as rigged without any evidence or fact is dangerous to the peace and security of this country, as some less probing citizens will take the words of their leaders as gospel truth and proceed to cause anarchy. Therefore, our view is that any opposition leader who labels the electoral process as rigged must be put to strict proof, failure to which they must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law for alarming the nation.”

He said the political process in the country has been ongoing since the 1950s.

Tembo said some political leaders made it and became Republican presidents while others did not and went down in history as such.

“However, the Republic of Zambia has always been there and should always be there regardless of the happenings in the political process of this country,” said Tembo. “Therefore, any individual politician, regardless of how popular they feel they are should conduct their politics within the parameters of preserving the continuity of this Republic.”


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