GOVERNMENT has strictly followed and never breached the provisions of the Constitution in the issuance of National Registration Cards (NRC), the State has submitted to the Constitutional Court.
The State has, therefore, denied claims by Chapter One Foundation Limited that it had breached the Constitution by implementing the issuance of NRCs in a manner that contravenes the supreme law of the land.
In this matter, Chapter One Foundation Limited has petitioned the Constitutional Court, seeking an order mandating the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to carry out continuous voter registration between elections.
It argued that the ECZ had violated the Constitution by deciding to conduct voter registration for the 2021 general election over a period of only 30 days.
Chapter One Foundation, which cited the ECZ and the Attorney General as respondents in the matter, further wants the Court to make an order mandating the Attorney General to implement the mobile issuance of NRCs throughout the country.
In its petition, the non-governmental organisation argued that government had breached the Constitution by implementing the issuance of NRCs in a manner that contravenes the Constitution.
But according to the Attorney General’s answer filed in the Constitutional Court, Friday, the State denied ever breaching any provisions of the Constitution by implementing the issuance of NRCs.
“Aside from the provisions of the National Registration Act, Chapter 126 of the laws of Zambia, the Government of the Republic of Zambia has strictly followed and never breached the provisions of the Constitution of Zambia in the issuance of National Registration Cards. The alleged contraventions of the Constitution are mere imaginations or speculations by the petitioner and the petitioner will be put to strict proof over the imaginations,” read the answer.
The State argued that it was a misconception to allege that the government had not rolled the mobile registration exercise to all parts of the country or that the services were not uniformly available to all citizens.
It further stated that it was unfounded to assert that the mobile registration exercise policy was being implemented selectively in a discriminatory manner, adding that Chapter One Foundation was not entitled to any of the reliefs sought in its petition or at all.
And according to the affidavit in support of the answer to the petition, Alick Mvula, a deputy Registrar General in the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship under the Ministry of Home Affairs, stated that in implementing the mobile registration exercise and in the issuance of NRCs, government had not only abided by the provisions of the National Registration Act, Chapter 126 of the Laws of Zambia, but had also strictly followed the provisions of the Constitution.
He stated that the Department of National Registration, Passport and Citizenship under the Ministry of Home Affairs provided its services in all its offices in all the districts across the country, except for some of the newly-created districts.
Mvula added that these offices were open throughout the year, except for weekends and public holidays.
He stated that individual citizens, who had attained the age of 16 were required to present themselves at the nearest District Registration Office for the purpose of being registered as provided for in the laws of Zambia.
“To supplement the aforementioned services, the government implements a mobile registration exercise every after five years to cater for citizens, who have attained the age of 16 years, but are unable to easily access or to present themselves to the nearest District Registration Offices. The aforementioned mobile registration exercise also caters for citizens, who have lost their National Registration Cards and need replacement of the same,” Mvula stated.
He stated that prior to the commencement of the mobile registration exercise, the Minister of Home Affairs issued a Ministerial Statement in Parliament on how the mobile exercise would be conducted.
Mvula stated that with regard to the current mobile registration exercise, due to unfavourable economic factors currently prevailing in the country, government decided to implement the said exercise in two phases and had, as at the date of Chapter One Foundation filing the Petition, allocated 40 days to each province.
“The first phase commenced on August 1, 2020, in the following provinces: Copperbelt, Eastern, Luapula, Northern and North-Western. The phase was scheduled to end on September 9, 2020, while the second phase was to commence on September 10, 2020, in the remaining provinces namely: Central, Copperbelt, Lusaka, Muchinga, Southern and Western. Due to some initial challenges in the first 10 days of the first phase, government extended the first phase to September 19, 2020, and the second phase will commence on September 20, 2020,” he stated.
Mvula stated that the total number of days for the second phase would be determined by how the exercise would proceed, but the same would never be less than 40 days, which was the minimum number of days as pronounced by the Minister of Home Affairs in Parliament.
In its answer to the petition, the ECZ submitted that it had not violated any provision of the Constitution by deciding to conduct voter registration for the 2021 election over a period of only 30 days.
It argued that the registration of voters and prescription of the cut-off dates with respect to the registration of voters and the compilation of the register of voters was prescribed under the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016.
The ECZ, therefore, asked the Court to dismiss the petition by Chapter One Foundation with costs.