UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka has warned that the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s decision not to sponsor any observers to monitor the ballot printing exercise in Dubai will lead to litigation.

Recently, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano announced that the Commission would not sponsor any stakeholders to Dubai to verify ballot papers for next year’s general election because the cost was “unwarranted”.

But in an interview, Mucheleka said it was wrong for ECZ to bulldoze the process.

“We are not confident with the whole process, not at all! We are demanding that ECZ must stop what they are doing! It is wrong if they think that that is the way they want to bulldoze the elections, they should not do it. Our legal team will be studying the whole matter, and at an appropriate time, we will be able to indicate our next course of action should they not stop. It is a serious matter!” Mucheleka warned.

He wondered why ECZ was claiming it lacked funds to sponsor the 2021 ballot paper verification when they had continued allowing the PF to cause unnecessary by-elections.

“How can they say they have no money? What about all those by-elections from the time, especially, when Lungu came into power? Where do the get the money from? Why haven’t they gone to PF and say, ‘look, we have no money; stop buying councillors, stop enticing MPs from resigning and coming to you?’ What type of people are they who can’t go to Lungu and tell them to stop what they are doing?” Mucheleka wondered.

“So what they are saying that they have no money is neither here or there because if, indeed, they had no money, they would have called PF to order by telling them stop inciting unnecessary, useless by-elections! Why are they saying they have no money? They (ECZ) are joking!”

He also wondered why ECZ did not consult stakeholders before making such a decision.

“We have not been consulted at all. We were actually taken aback when we saw that statement coming from ECZ even saying, ‘no, they don’t even have money’, it has always been standard practice to build consensus and make the process transparent at every stage so that you build confidence in the system. You don’t build confidence by thinking like you can hijack the whole process and think that you are doing that on behalf of the Patriotic Front; that is not an exercise for the Patriotic Front; PF is a political party like any other and all political parties must be able to agree. How do you make such decisions without consulting political parties,” Mucheleka wondered.

“You know, the elections in any democratic country is a very important undertaking and exercise for stakeholders; whenever you are undertaking an election, it is so serious that it requires a lot of serious management, consultation and consensus. This is why when you are ECZ, you are not there for yourselves, you are there for management of elections on behalf of the different stakeholders. This is why every point in time you are expected to consult various stakeholders, including political parties. We must be consulted whether you are talking about the printing of ballot papers, we must be consulted, where you are going to do it, how you arrived at selecting who to print, political parties must be consulted.”

Meanwhile, Mucheleka questioned the ECZ’s decision to start a new voters’ register where everyone would be required re-register.

“And this is why someone went on TV and said they will be registering nine million voters! They are discarding the so-called old register. What does that mean? They are doing that against the law! The law is very clear; it provides continued registration of voters so you cannot go and de-franchise people who are already registered so that you can start the process of rigging the elections on behalf of PF? That will not be allowed. There are two things that are fundamentally and seriously flawed: the printing of ballot papers and starting a new voters’ register. What about the people who are already registered? Why do you want to do things against the law?” asked Mucheleka.