CHAPTER One Foundation Limited has amended its petition in which it is challenging the decision of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to conduct voter registration for the 2021 elections over a period of 30 days.
On October 1, 2020, the Constitutional Court granted Chapter One Foundation leave to amend its petition after it applied to do so in order to bring all the issues that are pertinent to the case before court.
The Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has now filed its amended petition, seeking a declaration that the geographical limitation to the issuance of National Registration Cards (NRCs) will result in the disenfranchisement of many Zambians in contravention of the national values and is, therefore, unconstitutional.
It also wants the Court to make a declaration that the limitation of the period within which voter registration will be conducted to 30 days is unconstitutional, and a declaration that ECZ’s decision and intention to disallow currently registered voters from voting in the 2021 general election and future elections is unconstitutional and, therefore, null and void.
Chapter One Foundation, which has cited ECZ and the Attorney General as respondents, further wants the Court to make an order of mandamus directing the Attorney General to implement the mobile issuance of NRCs throughout the country and an order of mandamus directing the ECZ to carry out continuous voter registration between elections.
According to its amended petition filed in the Constitutional Court, the NGO argued that government, which is the principal for whom the Attorney General appears, had breached the Constitution by implementing the issuance of NRCs in a manner that contravenes the Constitution.
It added that the ECZ violated the Constitution of Zambia when it directed that currently, registered voters re-register to be eligible to vote in the 2021 presidential and parliamentary elections.
Chapter One Foundation stated that government, whether willingly or unwillingly, had not rolled out the mobile registration in all parts of the country and further, the registration services were not uniformly available to all citizens.
It added that following the 2016 Constitutional amendment, the Electoral Process Act was amended to provide for continuous voter registration to be carried out by the ECZ.
Chapter One Foundation stated that the 2016 Constitutional amendment made it mandatory for the implementation of government policy to apply the national values and principles.
“On June 12, 2020 or thereabouts, the Chief Electoral Officer, at a press briefing, informed the country that the period for voter registration had been reduced to 30 days, whereas the electoral laws require continuous voter registration. On September 21, 2020, ECZ issued a press statement in which it communicated its decision to disallow registered voters who will not register anew to vote in the 2021 general elections and future elections,” stated Chapter One Foundation.
It further stated that the decisions and actions by the respondents were, therefore, a breach of the Constitution and, consequently, unconstitutional.