GREEN Party president Peter Sinkamba says the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s (ECZ) online voter registration process has potential to cause civil war because around 70 per cent of the country’s population lack access to technology.
And Sinkamba says the ECZ can hire experts from the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZSA) to clean up the existing voter register so that any deceased voter is removed rather than having to compel the entire voter population to physically verify their particulars.
In an interview, Sinkamba argued that ECZ’s online voter registration process had potential to cause civil strife because around 70 per cent of the country’s population lacked access to technology, such as smart phones.
“In this country, we do not have more than 75 per cent of the population connected to smart phones to do online registration. The misadventure, which ECZ is trying to move the nation to, is going to be costly and can cause civil war. So, the ECZ needs to be very careful that whatever they are doing may appear to be something of fun to them, but in essence, they are endangering their own lives and the lives of their children. I always give an example of Malawi and other African countries where the electoral commissions and their families have been victims of civil war. The electoral process where registration is going to be online is definitely not earnable in Zambia at the moment because we are talking about over 70 per cent of the population living in rural areas. And these people don’t have access to smart phones, which they can be able to use,” Sinkamba argued.
He stressed that there was no justification for the ECZ to abandon the old register, adding that the Constitution as well as the Electoral Act also provided for updating of the existing register.
“The literacy levels are very low in this country, such that not everyone is able to do certain commands. We are saying that there is already a register, which has been produced in accordance with the Constitution of the Republic of Zambia. And at the moment, there is no justification whatsoever to abandon it (existing voter register) altogether. All that should happen is just to update it. That is what the Constitution and the Electoral Act say. And looking at the ECZ resources at their disposal at the moment, the resources in terms of funds and in terms of manpower, they do not have capacity to be able to produce a brand new register, which is going to have nine million, plus people. It is impossible to achieve that goal in one month or two months. The maximum they can do is 1.5 million people in six months. That is what has been proven prior,” he said.
And Sinkamba proposed that ECZ hires experts from the ZSA to clean up that register.
“We want to appeal to the ECZ that let them abandon this route. This route is not helpful, it is not making any sense and we do not have the resources to be able to undertake it in terms of financial and also human resource. They gave a very fake excuse at first where they said, ‘some people have died.’ They were estimating almost 400 people have died. That is not a problem to clean up the register like that. Right now, the Ministry of Health has got an electronic system now, and also the police, in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and the Department of Registration, have gone digital when it comes to registration of Brought-in-Dead (BID) people. They already have a register of people, who have died in hospital and people that have died from their homes in the last four years. All ECZ can do is to hire experts from the Zambia Statistics Agency to clean up that register so that those that have died are removed from that register. And then the political parties can come and verify the register after it has been cleaned up by experts. It is a simple job for Zambia Statistics to do. So, it shouldn’t mean that the entire population of 10 million people must go and parade themselves to ECZ for ECZ to know who has died,” he advised.
Sinkamba expressed disappointment in ECZ senior management for not acting in public interest.
“What the ECZ is doing is wrong. If I have already registered, I don’t need to go and parade myself before ECZ, that is wrong. But if I want to change my polling station, then it is justified that I should go to ECZ. So, (Patrick) Nshindano, (Esau) Chulu and other commissioners should know that what they are doing is playing with fire! A voter register is a very sensitive document in the electoral process. And a register is a potential source of civil war in a nation if it is mismanaged. And the best they can do is to refrain from doing that as that is going to make the public lose confidence in the electoral process because of a sham register! And if they allow that situation, they will have to blame themselves for what will happen,” warned Sinkamba.