Forum for Democracy and Development (FDD) Spokesperson Antonio Mwanza says allowing prisoners to vote is not practical and the ruling party can use it as a platform for rigging.

In an interview with News Diggers! Mwanza said the judgment by the Constitutional Court would only bring problems to ECZ, the Prisons Authorities and the political players in the country.

“The decision by the Constitutional Court of Zambia to allow inmates to vote will pose serious administrative and political problems to the Electoral Commission of Zambia, the Prisons Authority as well as the political players. This judgment has raised more questions than answers and it’s clear that the Constitutional Court did not take time to do a true diligence before they arrived at their decision. First of all, does it mean that as political parties and independent political players those who are standing as independent are we going to be allowed to go into prisons and campaign? Because how else will the prisoners make an informed decision if us as politicians are not allowed to go into the prisons and campaign, distribute chitenge materials?” Mwanza wondered.

“Unless they tell us that with this judgment we will all be allowed to go into prisons and make campaigns to the prisoners otherwise, if we are not going to be allowed to go to the prisons and campaign then how will the prisoners reach at the informed decision to vote for a candidate of their choice? Secondly, how are the prisoners themselves going to vote? Are they going to be transported from wherever prisons they are detained to go and vote? Say for instance a prisoner is detained at Mwembeshi prison in Mwembeshi and he votes from Chavuma, does it mean that the prison authority will carry that prisoner and take him to Chavuma?”

Mwanza observed that allowing inmates to vote costly.

“Does the prison authority have enough man power to marshal the security that is required to carry these prisoners across the country? Do they have the resources to provide transport for all these prisoners to take them across the country or will ECZ start setting up polling stations at prisons because if they have to set up polling stations at prisons, then we need to deal with the legislation to turn the polling stations across the country so that then we can have polling stations at prisons. But how practical is that going to be? Because these prisoners will be voting from different polling stations. So it is practically impossible because the prison authorities don’t have the resources to transport the prisoners,” Mwanza said.

Mwanza also said he was skeptical about prisoners voting because it could be used as a platform by the ruling party to rig elections.

“How do we secure the process and ensure that it is not being manipulated or used for rigging purposes? So that is a serious challenge that we are going to face. And if we as political players are also not allowed to go into the prisons to go and campaign then what will be the basis under which these prisoners will be voting? We might have a situation where the vote from the prisons is actually being used for the rigging of the whole elections. So we are very skeptical and we challenge the Constitutional Court to explain to us how they intend to go about this voting to be done and the prisoners to vote in a practical manner,” he said.

Mwanza said the ECZ did not have the capacity to competently and transparently co-opt prisoners into the voting system.

“We are aware that every person has certain rights but we want to look at the practical side because lately, we have had issues with men and women in uniform because some are sent to places far away from their voting stations but they are supposed to vote. Last year it was a difficult process because we asked ECZ to give us list of all police and other officers who would be deployed in different places. We needed to know them so that we could guard against manipulation of voting and rigging of the vote using the army officers as well as the police who are on the pretext that they have been allowed to go and vote in polling stations where they don’t belong,” said Mwanza.

“So if they cannot deal with a simple list of officers that have just been deployed, how sure are we that ECZ will competently, effectively and transparently deal with the issue of prisoners? Mind you, they are thousands of them and they are supposed to vote from various places, unless they tell us that they will put up provisional polling stations but that is also very complicated and how secure will those polling stations be looking at the fact that these people are coming from various places where they are registered from. So it’s not a question of their rights but it’s a question of also ensuring people don’t take advantage of this provisional for the prisoners to rig the elections.”