The Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), Monday afternoon, told delegates at the ongoing National Dialogue Forum that the Ministry of Justice had given the NDF a wrong version of the Electoral Process Amendment Bill.

Meanwhile, Justice Minister Given Lubinda has extended the sitting of the National Dialogue Forum by three days.

Making a submission, Monday, ECZ commissioner Justice Christopher Mushabati told delegates that the Electoral Process Amendment Bill given to them was different from the layman’s draft bill that was prepared by the consultants who were commissioned to undertake the gap analysis of the electoral laws.

“Mr Chairman, the Commission acknowledges the value of elections as fundamental to the entire democratic process. The Commission also recognises that for elections to achieve the objective of having legitimate representation, it is necessary to have an electoral system that is understood by the electorate and that facilitates their meaningful participation in the electoral process. This is especially important for people in the rural areas most of whom are not able to read and write. It is for that reason Chairman that the Electoral Commission of Zambia is extremely pleased to be part of this important forum and that as a matter of fact, on 18th December, 2017, the Commission submitted to the Chief Parliamentary Counsel its comments on the Constitutional amendment act no. 2 of 2016, the Electoral Commission Act no. 5 of 2016 and the electoral process act no. 35 2016,” submitted Justice Mushabati.

“It has however, been brought to our attention as a Commission that the Electoral Process Amendment Bill availed to the delegates of the on going national dialogue, (constitution, electoral process, public order and political parties) Bill forum is different from the layman’s draft bill that was prepared by the consultants who were commissioned to undertake the gap analysis of the electoral laws. Consequently, the electoral process amendment bill which has been availed to the delegates has not adequately addressed the concerns on the electoral process act no. 35 of 2016 that were submitted by the commission. For the same reasons Mr Chairman, we wish to request that the review of the electoral process act by this August House be undertaken in line with the gap analysis and draft layman’s electoral process bill which was prepared by the consultants in November ,2017, and submitted to the Ministry of Justice. Further, we have taken the liberty of recirculating the Commission’s layman’s Electoral Amendment Bill draft for possible consideration in the deliberations of the forum.”

In response, Lubinda said that was just an administrative glitch and promised that the contents were exactly the same.

“I think this was a result of an administrative glitch in the Ministry of Justice. I think that my team in the ministry picked up an Amendment Bill which was submitted earlier. I think it should have been submitted early in 2017 and they ignored or forgot the fact that later in 2017, the ECZ had submitted a more elaborate Amendment Bill and happily for me, the Bill that is being replaced is a much smaller Bill than the one that they’ve produced today. In short, everything contained in the initial document that delegates have is also contained in the new document. So it’s not as though we are removing anything, as a matter of fact, they are adding more substance to the original document. This is the reason why it shouldn’t cause any worry. The document that justice Mushabati presented is a more comprehensive document than the one that was attached in the folders of delegates and this was purely an administrative glitch,” Lubinda said.

Meanwhile, Lubinda extended the sitting of the NDF to Saturday, May 11, 2019.

“I received a letter on Friday from the Chairperson and I spent the weekend consulting with various people in the ministry and also consulting the leaders of the forum. They asked for two-day extension. The forum should have ended on Wednesday and they asked that we extend to Friday. But what I have done instead is to give them three days extension, however, that three days shall end on Saturday. So if they don’t complete their work by Friday, they shall not ask for Monday because I would like everything to concluded by Sunday morning,” said Lubinda.