Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) acting chief executive officer Royd Katongo says stakeholders are free to sue the commission if they want because it will not sponsor them to verify ballot papers in Dubai.

Speaking when he appeared on ZNBC TV2’s Morning Live show, Monday, Katongo said stakeholders had enough time to sacrifice by saving money to travel to Dubai.

“The commission is not stoping any one from observing the printing of ballot papers. What the commission has said is that it shall not financially support those who wish to go and observe the printing of ballot papers, it is not sustainable. Yes, in the past we have done this but look, we have to review each and every activity that we do and for us moving forward, we have realised that it is not sustainable. We are coming from a situation where you will have two political parties, it was much easier to finance two individuals to go and observe. But today, how many political parties do we have in Zambia? If all of them would say they will want to contest in these elections, we will have a whole of 60 plus individuals to go and observe and we foot the bill,” Katongo said.

“For now, there should be a contribution if you want to engage into a game, you have to sacrifice a bit. It is good that we are engaging stakeholders now, elections are next year on August 11, 2021 and so the stakeholders have enough time to mobilise their resources. We welcome feedback, those who want to sue us, it is within their rights to sue us, it is within their confines. What we have done is to ensure that we create an enabling environment for everyone. But we will and face them and stand by our actions.”

Katongo said the commission was still reviewing whether or not media personnel would be sponsored.

“As for the media, this is matter is still being reviewed by the commission. Definitely, we have to ensure that somehow somewhere, we ensure that there is transparency. Everyone who remains at home, if ballot papers will be printed outside Zambia, they will have access to the media and see what is happening in terms of electoral process,” he said

Asked why the ballots papers were not printed locally to cut down on the costs Katongo, insisted that Zambian companies did not meet the criteria

“For this process, they have not met the criteria. It is a call to Zambian companies and all those operating in Zambia, elections in Zambia are very predictable, every after five years. The last time we had elections was in 2016 and there were pronouncements that were made that indeed we would love to minimize on costs and print these ballot papers within the country. And so the issue now is the companies in Zambia…they should invest in their companies,” he said.

Asked how prepared the commission was to conduct the 2021 elections, Katongo said the commission would start the printing of ballot papers early.

“We are on course. The reason why you have seen that we are starting very early in terms of ballot paper printing and all the related election materials right now, I can safely say we are on course,” said Katongo.