AVAP executive director Richwell Mulwani says it will be tricky for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to conduct voter registration for the 2021 general election in just one month.
In an interview, Mulwani feared that the 30-day period that the ECZ had announced for the countrywide voter registration from October 18 to November 17 was already too short, and that the turn up by voters will be greatly affected considering that it would be rainy season by then and citizens would be preparing their fields.
“We know that voter registration was planned to start in May, but now it has been moved to October. But when you look at that time, ECZ is likely to face a challenge because that time will be the rainy season and during that time, people will be preparing their fields. When people are preparing their fields, they leave their homes and go to their fields where they go to cultivate and they only come back later in the year around November maybe and then go back again somewhere in January when the crops are ripe. So, it is possible that this 30 days that the Commission has placed is because of the fears of COVID and also that people will end up crowding and it will be a challenge. But 30 days is not enough to do this exercise. When you look at this country, it is vast. We know they are going to do it in all the places at once, but there are areas that are very difficult to reach,” Mulwani said.
“But the biggest issue, really, is that the period of October to November is the farming period and it will be a very tricky situation. So, for ECZ to achieve this in 30 days, they need to provide a lot of information, village by village. They need to organize the voters through the headmen, through the church, and through civil society organisations. The Commission needs to work very hard in order to register the desired number of voters otherwise it is not attainable because the situation in Zambia is such that people have a culture where they want to register at the last minute. So, all those are challenges that we need to start dealing with now as we have not yet reached October. In short, these are the problems that we need to deal with so that people can be spoken to in the language that they understand.”
Meanwhile, Mulwani insisted that the Constitution Amendment Bill Number 10 of 2019 needed to be withdrawn from Parliament because it was not the most urgent issue that Zambians needed to deal with.
“The issue of Bill 10 has raised eyebrows among many citizens in this country. I can see that we are going to waste time on Bill 10 by debating it and this will create unnecessary tension in the country. If this Bill is raising dust in Parliament, why do we continue with an issue that is bringing problems in the country? To us, as AVAP, we feel that there is nothing new that this Bill wants to address and it is just causing unnecessary tension on the country. The constitution-making process is not the most urgent thing we have as a country; I think we have held elections before in this country. So, the most important thing for us, as a nation, now, is to concentrate on voter registration, issuance of NRCs and also to educate Zambians about the importance of registering to vote,” said Mulwani.