Musician Chama Fumba, popularly known as Pilato, Maiko Zulu, Brian Bwembya and two others have applied for leave in the Lusaka High Court to commence Judicial Review proceedings against the decision of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to compel duly registered voters to present themselves before registration officers for verification under a new register for the 2021 general elections.
In their notice for leave to commence Judicial Review proceedings filed in the principal registry, Pilato, Maiko, Bwembya, aka B Flow and two youths – Nawa Sitali and Muleta Kapatiso – on behalf of the people, have argued that the decision by ECZ which required currently validly registered voters in terms of the law to participate in a process that amounts to re-registration of voters in a period of one month is illegal.
Pilato and others are represented by lawyers Nchito and Nchito and Mwenye and Mwitwa Advocates.
Pilato and others have further argued that ECZ’s decision amounted to deregistering voters without notice and following laid down procedure, which was contrary to the law.
The applicants are seeking an order quashing ECZ’s decision for being irrational, procedurally improper and illegal.
They are also seeking an order, compelling ECZ to re-take its decision and act within the powers vested in them by the law.
The applicants stated that if leave was granted, hearing of the Judicial Review application should be expedited and that it should operate as a stay of ECZ’s decision which requires already registered voters to present themselves before a registration officer again or be precluded or prevented from voting in the 2021 general elections.
Pilato and others stated that on June 12, 2020, ECZ at a media briefing by its chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano, announced that it would undertake a fresh registration of voters.
It is alleged that Nshindano had said the ECZ would ensure that current registered voters would still be retained on condition that they present themselves for verification, update and capture of additional information required, including biometric capture (10 figure prints and portrait).
Nshindano directed that every eligible voter would have to register or verify their details under the new register for the 2021 general elections.
But Pilato and others submitted that they were Zambian citizens who were already registered voters on the existing register and objected to being disenfranchised by their valid and otherwise lawful registration invalidated unlawfully and then required to present themselves for re-registration in a very limited time during a period when the world was dealing with COVID-19 and when ECZ, by its own admission, says that it is grossly under funded to carry out the full registration envisaged in the proposed time period of 30 days.
Pilato and others contended that ECZ’s decision to require every registered voter to present themselves for verification under a new register as a condition for voting was unlawful as ECZ did not have the power under the law to discard the existing register and deregister people who were lawfully and validly registered without lawful cause.
The applicants stated that ECZ was required by Section 7 of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 and Regulation 8 of the Electoral (Registration of voters) Regulations 2010, to carry out continuous voter registration, which they had neglected to do for the ostensible reason that they did not have required monetary resources.
Pilato and others further argued that ECZ had no authority to deregister or conduct itself in a manner that deregistered a registered voter.
“ECZ now intends to require every registered voters to present themselves before registration officials in a manner that amounts to discarding a current register of voters which had approximately 6 Million registered voters built over many years and require those who were previously registered effectively to re-register,” they stated.
The applicants also argued that the decision by ECZ to undertake a fresh registration of voters, which would effectively discard the current register and had the effect of de-registering and disenfranchising duly registered voters who may not verify their details, without lawful cause for their de-registration is contrary to the law.
“ECZ claims that it intends to register approximately 9 million voters in a restricted period of 31 days commencing on October 19, 2020 to November 18, 2020 as announced by its chief executive officer where he announced the projected number of voters it seeks to register,” the applicants stated.
They stated that to carry out the full registration of voters, ECZ needed K880 million yet only K100 million was approved by the Treasury and that even the approved amount had not been dispensed.
“Notwithstanding the clear shortage of financial resources and short time left before the general, presidential and parliamentary elections, ECZ is proceeding in a manner that amounts to discarding the current register which has been building up from 2005 to date and arbitrarily deregistering approximately 6 million registered voters to try and register 9 million new and old voters in 30 days without adequate financial resources,” they stated.
Pilato and others also contended that the ECZ’s failure to apply the law correctly was prejudicial to them and other citizens like them, by requiring new registration when they were already registered voters.