NO. The 2021 Voters’ Register should not be the one to be used during the 2026 general elections.

WHY?

Because it is not a true reflection of the Zambian electorate that is eligible to vote. Compared with the previous register, the current one was skewed to ensure that the numbers of registered voters in certain areas were increased and conversely reduced in other areas.

The 2021 Voters’ Register should not be used in the 2026 general elections because it is a REGISTER OF EXCLUSION and a PRODUCT OF DECEIT.

How is it a register of exclusion and a product of deceit?

The 2021 Voters’ Register is a register of exclusion and a product of deceit in the manner it was designed and in the way it was produced:

1. The decision to wipe out the existing voters’ register and come up with a totally new one, was in itself a suspicious move;

2. There was deception in the days allocated for the registration of voters. While the ECZ allocated thirty-eight (38) days to the exercise, not all the registration centres were open throughout the 38 days. Majority of the centres were open for only a maximum of seven (7) days. In some centres, not all the allocated 7 days were utilised for registration as the registration machines could not function in the first few days or stopped to function after a few days;

3. Majority of the registration centres were winding up business after 7 days, even without registering all the eligible voters in the area;

4. While the electorate expected to go and register at their usual and nearest polling stations, not all the polling stations in the country were open for the registration exercise;

5. There was deceit in the timing of the voter registration exercise. It took place at a time when students who were in school were either preparing to write or were actually writing examinations;

6. Again there was deceit in the timing of the exercise because it took place in the ploughing and planting season;

7. The extension by 4 days was also a deception. Some densely populated areas were left out, with registration officers going to non-densely populated areas where they even recorded zero-registration;

8. The Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship was also an accomplice in the deception by issuing less National Registration Cards (NRCs) in certain parts of the country than in other parts;

9. Today there are many people who are eligible to be issued with NRCs but they do not have them because the NRC issuance machines kept breaking down, or they ran out of material, but only in certain parts of the country;

10. In some areas the electorate were promised to be issued with NRCs at the same time of the voter registration. But this was just a deception because the promised “simultaneous” issuance of NRCs and Voters’ Cards did not take place;

11. Some people were sick, at home or in hospital, the time the voter registration was going on. By the time they recovered, the registration officers had left the registration centres.

Here is a table of comparison of registered voters against the population in selected Constituencies and/or Districts. It clearly illustrates how the 2021 Voters’ Register was designed to be a REGISTER OF EXCLUSION.

Comparison of registered voters against population in selected Constituencies/Districts
Constituency/District Province Population Registered voters % of registered voters against population
Chama Muchinga 74,890 53,075 70.87%
Chilubi Northern 81,248 52,165 64.20%
Malambo Eastern 70,425 45,106 64.05%
Gwembe Southern 53,117 15,493 29.17%
Chikankata Southern 127,604 36,533 28.63%
Kalabo Western 114,806 26,242 22.86%
Mufumbwe N/Western 71,238 15,027 21.09%
Ikelenge N/Western 127,604 18,417 14.43%
(https://sggem.org/2020/10/04/letter-by-the-board-of-sggem-to-ecz-in-zambia/)

It is therefore very clear that the 2021 Voter’s Register should be discarded completely.

There is need for a totally NEW and CLEANand INCLUSIVE Voters’ Register.

When should the production of a new, clean and inclusive Voters’ Register be done?

Preparations for a next election begin immediately one election is over. Therefore, the work of producing a correct and proper Voters’ Register should start now.

Just after the 2016 general elections, Government appointed a Commission of Inquiry to examine the voting patterns and electoral violence that had characterised various elections since the 2006 general elections. One of the recommendations of the Commission was that:

“Government should take steps to remove barriers to the participation of all citizens in the election process” (Report of The Commission of Inquiry into Voting Patterns and Electoral Violence, January 2019, p. xvi).

The Commission further proposed specific measures to implement this recommendation. One of the measures is as follows:

“The ECZ, in undertaking voter registration, should ensure that all eligible citizens are on the voters‘ register. Government should ensure that there is close collaboration between the ECZ and the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship, so that mobile voter registration is conducted after the mobile issuance of National Registration Cards or the two exercises are done simultaneously. This will ensure that citizens who have reached the voting age can register as voters for the immediate upcoming election”, (p. 174).

When preparing the 2021 Voters’ Register, the Government of the Patriotic Front (PF) neglected and/or ignored this recommendation.

In its preparations for the 2026 elections the New Dawn Government of the UPND Alliance should embrace this recommendation and run with it. And the steps to be taken should include the following:

1. Using various local structures, all those who are eligible to obtain NRCs should be identified. These local structures should include the churches, schools, traditional leaders, Ward Development Committees, and various other community based organisations;

2. The Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship should be prompted to carry out massive issuance of NRCs to eligible people who will have been identified by the local structures;

3. Government should prompt the implementation of Article 229 (1) of the Constitution which provides for establishment of Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) offices in Provinces and in Districts;

4. Section 7 of the Electoral Process Act of 2016, which provides for continuous voter registration, ought to be adhered to with immediate effect.

A rider to this issue is that before the 2026 general elections, we ought to have a National Referendum to conclude the Constitution-making process. According to our laws, fifty percent of eligible voters should participate in the Referendum for it to be successful.

In this regard, a Voters’ Register, which is a product of deceit and which has excluded many voters, cannot guarantee a successful Referendum.

About the Author
Simon Kalolo Kabanda is a Human Rights and Development Consultant. He is also an analyst of governance
and socio-political developments

(If you have any socio-political question that you would like to be discussed on this column, kindly send a message to me either through sms, WhatsApp or email).

Whatsapp: +260-761-206353
Email: shimwenya@gmail.com