THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has announced that the voter registration exercise will commence on October 18 for a period of 30 days, rather than the initial 60-day plan which the commission had before the pandemic.

And the Commission says it faces a big risk of financing, following reduced revenue generation capacity in the country due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

During a media briefing, Friday, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano said the voter registration exercise would run side by side with the online and mobile registration exercises.

“Voter registration, we are all looking forward to this exercise, there has been a lot of narratives around it. Ladies and gentlemen, the commission planned to undertake the registration of voters in May 2020 for 60 days but due to Covid-19 pandemic, the commission has had to adjust the activities in the election timetable. Therefore, the commencement of voter registration exercise has been rescheduled to October 2020 and it will be undertaken for 30 days nationwide in a constituencies and wards. This will be an aggressive process and we encourage citizens to be on the lookout. The expected date of commencement I think should be around the 18th of October when all other processes have been concluded including the mobile voter registration exercise with our colleagues under the Ministry of Home Affairs. The period of voter registration has been reduced from 60 days due to tight timelines leading to the election date which is enshrined in the Constitution. So for us to be able to meet that timeline, the undertaking for voter registration will be for 30 days,” Nshindano said.

“The commission has further reviewed stakeholder concerns and recommendations about the intention to embark on a new register of voters which targets nine million voters, the commission undertook a thorough analysis of every situation and different scenarios of preparing the register of voters for the 2021 general elections, arising from this analysis, the commission has concluded that it would be the best and in the best interest of all the stakeholders and the general public for the commission to undertake a fresh registration of voters whilst ensuring that the current registered voters are still retained on the provision that they present themselves for verification, updates and capture of additional information required including biometric capture which is their fingerprint and a portrait. The voter registration exercise will include online as well as mobile voter registration. We are quite excited about the online registration which will allow citizens to simply go online and register, more details will be communicated to you.”

He reiterated that the date of the 2021 elections could not be changed because it was enshrined in the constitution.

“In order to meet the deadline ahead of the 2021 elections, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic, the commission has had to revise its election time table taking into consideration that the election date is enshrined in the constitution. The commission carried out a critical analysis of the activities and the time frame ahead of the 12th August 2021 when Zambia is scheduled to hold its general elections. We have seen a number of articles as well as media reports with regards to the commission attempting to defer general elections, that is totally not possible because this is a constitutional matter, it is enshrined in the constitution and the elections will be held on 12th August 2021 and I would encourage citizens as well as our media colleagues to basically have a look at the constitution and a number of other electoral laws as we do our analysis. So Covid-19 has imposed a challenge, not only for elections but almost every sector of life within and across the nation. The commission would like to ensure that every undertaking is within the law, aimed at enhancing the electoral process and delivery of credible elections that meet the aspirations of the Zambian people,” he said.

“As a commission, we are still learning on how to better conduct elections in the new normal environment and remain open to all interested stakeholders to engage with the commission on issues that may concern them, including clarifications were need be in a bid to be inclusive to ensure that we enhance our electoral process. May I also take this opportunity to mention that as part of the implementation of the electoral calenders, the commission will enhance it’s engagement with stakeholders as is the case now with media colleagues here and has lined up the political party liaison committee next week. This is a committee that is comprised of political parties mainly secretary generals and chairpersons for elections and this is scheduled for next week, 16th June Tuesday, were we will engage on the number of aspects.”

And Nshindano expressed worry about funding to the institution given the financial constraints which had been worsened by the pandemic.

“I would like to state that the biggest risk that the commission is to face is financing which has been adversely impacted as a result of reduced economic activities due to Covid-19 and reduced revenue generation capacity by the treasury. The Commission has continued to engage with the treasury for funding for the voter registration and the 2021 general elections to ensure that we reach our set timeline and we are optimistic that this will still be attained. And it’s very important that we appreciate this challenge and should this not be actualized we will be quick to communicate to the general public as well as stakeholders but we remain optimistic that this will be attained and we have commitment from our colleagues, the treasury,” Nshindano said.

He also said the delimitation exercise had been completed and names had been submitted for gazetting.

“Colleagues as you recall, the commission commenced the delimitation exercise in all districts accross the country from July 2019 to December 2019. Following a review of the submissions and recommendations from the stakeholders the Commission complied a report of the recommendations on the number of constituencies, wards as well as changes to polling districts including relocations, change of names those have been submitted for gazetting on our end, the commission awaits feedback from the executive this is especially in reference to constituencies. So on the part of the Commission, the delimitation exercise has now been fully completed and has been submitted to the executive and we believe that this might be submitted to parliament in the current sitting,” Nshindano said.

Meanwhile, Nsindano said that the commission had settled for the Al Ghurair printing company in Dubai to print ballot papers for the 2021 elections.

“In preparation for the 2021 general elections, as you recall the commission advertised the tender in September 2019 in line with the Zambia Public Procurement Act number 12 of 2008. I wish to inform you that the tender process has since been concluded, the two appeals that were before the ZPPA were reviewed and the commission’s evaluation of the best bidder was upheld. In this regard, the tender for the printing of ballot papers for the 2021 general elections has been awarded to Al Ghurair of Dubai, United Arab Emirates,” said Nshindano.