Chief Government Spokesperson Dora Siliya says the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) is not mandated by law to sponsor stakeholders to go and observe the printing of ballot papers in Dubai.

And Siliya says Zambia has continued to hold credible elections and the only thing that is needed are good losers.

Meanwhile, Siliya says it is not strange that Forest 27 was degazetted because it was done for development.

Speaking at press briefing at Government Complex in Lusaka, Wednesday, Siliya backed ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano’s position that taking stakeholders to observe printing of ballot papers was an unnecessary cost.

“If money was found [for the ECZ to sponsor stakeholders to monitor the printing of ballot papers in Dubai] maybe all the 17 million Zambians would want to go. It is important to follow the law. The law compels the ECZ to manage the elections in Zambia including printing of ballot papers. Does the law say the ECZ is compelled to take observers or not, I don’t know? Does the law say the ECZ should find money to pay for citizens to go and observe printing of ballot papers? I don’t think so. And for those that have gone to a polling booth, for those that have voted in an election, you know what happens at a polling booth. Everybody has representatives there at the polling station,” Siliya said.

“And if they have said they don’t have the money [to sponsor observers to go to Dubai], they can’t create [money] from without. So, let the ECZ do their job. If you don’t have confidence in an institution, we will be saying even in media rooms we should have observers because why should we trust media as an institution? It’s time we have confidence in our own institutions. If the job of the ECZ is to print ballot papers, they should print them and bring them here. If people want to verify them, they can verify them. I think that it is time that we believe that we know how to manage elections in this country because this is not the first time that we have been having elections in this country. Even when there have been monitors, there have been suspicions.”

She said people who have nothing to offer to the electoral process should just keep quiet.

“We have to have confidence in our processes and in our institutions of governance. If we keep taking away credibility from our institutions of governance, we will end up saying that these institutions are useless and it will not just be the ECZ [but] it will be the Judiciary, the police and ultimately, it would even be the media. I think if people have got nothing better to offer to the process, it is just better to keep quiet. This is a country going through austerity measures and government has got a lot of competing needs,” Siliya said.

And Siliya said Zambia had continued to have credible elections and all it needed were good losers.

“And if the ECZ are saying it is unwarranted to have observers because this is just the process of printing the ballot papers, then I really believe that the ECZ are better placed to tell you that they don’t have the money. And government has to think that ‘should we take the money from UTH to fly five people to go and see ballot papers printed and brought here?’ We believe that the media are the mirrors for the citizens especially as far as elections are concerned and there has always been the media in polling stations to see and monitor the process, apart from political party representation, NGO representation, church representation, and observers representation. So we have a lot of ways to ensure that our elections are credible and that is why we have continued to have credible elections in this country. We just need to have good losers,” she said.

Meanwhile, Siliya said there were a lot of forests which were being degazzetted to allow for development.

“Everybody is talking about Forest 27, what about forest 26, forest 25, 24, 23? Government’s intention is to ensure that as the population increases, as we provide for development, it is managed. We don’t make decisions from without. We make decisions based on expert advice from government and a development plan so that we know that in future, Lusaka is moving in this direction, we need houses in this direction. In future, we need to move in this direction [and] what do we do with the housing such as in Kalingalinga? Where do we move the people to? We have to find a forest to give them. So, this focus of saying ‘high government officials’ [will not help]. While we want to continue with political accusations on Forest 27, it’s not strange. There are so many forests that are [de]gazetted to allow for development to happen,” said Siliya.