ZITUKULE Consortium says it is concerned that the 2021 general elections may be devoid of electoral integrity and credibility going by the behaviour of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) and some stakeholders.
Executive director Nicholas Phiri said earlier this year, the ECZ unilaterally decided to cancel the practice of independent observation of the printing of ballot papers for the 2021 general elections by political parties and civil society.
Phiri said while the ECZ argued that it was unable to meet the cost for supporting an observation mission, the practice remains a vital and integral ingredient for confidence building in the electoral management process in Zambia, where the integrity of the electoral body is questionable.
“Several stakeholders have requested the ECZ to reconsider its stance on this matter. Interestingly, ECZ has stuck to its own wisdom. In whose interest is the ECZ working? Has the Commission considered the cost of civil strife resulting from disputed election results? Secondly, the ECZ has also maintained, against stakeholder’s advice, that voter registration will be for 30 days only,” he said.
“The previous voter register had more than 6.7 million voters. ECZ is reportedly targeting to capture nine million new voters for the 2021 voter register, all this in 30 days! This translates into 300,000 voters in eight hours per day or 37,500 voters per hour or 625 voters per minute, assuming that there is no breakdown in the registration system at any given point in the said 30 days. Is this a joke or comedy?”
Phiri said ECZ must be clear on that matter.
“Are they talking about a new voters’ roll or it’s an upgrade of the exiting voters’ roll in which case the Commission would be looking for about three million new voters or less?” he asked.
“Thirdly, the continued unguarded pronouncements from government officials including ministers and the Head of State creates doubt about the credibility of our electoral and governance systems. For instance, Minister of Defence Mr Davis Chama suggests that invoking constitutional provision as provided in article 52 to challenge the eligibility of President Lungu would result into civil unrest. How can a lawful act precipitate an unlawful act?”
He asked what message Chama was giving to the men and women in uniform under his command.
“In the same vein, it’s not long ago when the President stated in no uncertain terms that he would not give up power even if citizens voted him out of office. Isn’t this treasonous and therefore unlawful? Is the system daring or testing citizens’ tolerance levels? Are these statements coincidental and from without?” asked Phiri. “In view of the foregoing, we hold the view that the 2021 elections may not be credible, a situation which is likely to be met with fierce resistance and pushback from stakeholders and citizens. We wish to call on the ECZ, government and all stakeholders to draw lessons from a poorly managed 2016 general election as well as the developing electoral trends in the region and across the globe to craft a credible electoral system for ourselves.”