MOOMBA UPND member of parliament Fred Chaatila says the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is being arrogant by not listening to stakeholders on calls to extend the voter registration exercise.
And Chaatila says the Commission should consider sending more staff to polling stations because they are being overworked with others falling sick.
On Monday, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano said the last day of the mobile voter registration exercise still remained December 12, for now, despite severe operational challenges the Commission faced with long queues and a slow uptake of newly-registered voters.
But in an interview Chaatila accused the Commission of colluding with the ruling PF by ignoring repeated calls to extend the registration exercise and respond to stakeholder concerns on the problematic nature of registering voters.
“ECZ has been very arrogant! I must say that. This process must be a process that involves everybody; we are all stakeholders. All they have done is to give powers to the Commission to manage that process, but at the end of the day, they need to go back to the people that have given them the power. If people are complaining, who are they to insist that there is not going to be any extension? If you go to the PF guys, they will say, ‘all is going on well’ and this is the collusion where we are saying that ECZ is colluding with the PF…What is the purpose of targeting nine million people and by the end of the exercise, there are only three million and then they say, ‘this is the end; we are not going to extend.’ What does this amount to? It amounts to collusion or arrogance on the part of ECZ,” Chaatila argued.
“If they can’t listen to the cries of the people; they feel they own this country when this country belongs to everyone. Initially, we told them the registration of voters is an ongoing exercise and what we had requested of them is to just ensure that they remove dead people from the voter’s roll. The challenge is that the manpower that they have sent is not enough. These guys are able to register between 80 and 120 people per day. Now, imagine if you have a polling centre, which has double streams, it means they are not even satisfying one stream, meaning if you have 600 registered voters as per 2016 register, currently, these guys are doing 50 per cent of that. So, you see a situation where there are long queues forming up and basically this has frustrated voters. So, even if we go round to tell them to register, their impression is that they are still not going to get the voter’s card.”
And Chaatila equally expressed concern that registration officers were fatigued due to lack of sufficient rest.
“…And these are human beings. These guys are trying their best. You can imagine these guys are seated from 07.00 to 18.00, they are not breaking off for lunch! In my constituency, which is normal for someone to get sick, a registration officer at one of the polling stations fell sick and for those two days he was unwell, nothing was happening. At Kaseba Primary School, three days ago, the laptops stopped working and they had to wait for people from Lusaka to come and pick it up and I have not called to check whether the laptop is back. These are the challenges we are having because of having one person to register. I think there is a need for serious consideration from the ECZ. These are human beings who can fall sick,” said Chaatila, who also complained that the quality of voters’ cards was poor.