THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) yesterday postponed a meeting with political parties saying the issues which were supposed to be discussed are before the courts.
But National Democratic Congress (NDC) leader Chishimba Kambwili says if the Commission cannot hold a meeting in fear of being cited for contempt, then they should also stop the online registration process because it is equally subjudice.
In a statement, Wednesday, ECZ acting public relations manager Sylvia Bwalya said the Commission would advise stakeholders on further engagements after the court cases have been disposed of.
“The Commission regrets to announce the postponement of the meeting which was scheduled to be held today, 30th September 2020 at 14:00hrs, with all political parties at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre. This is on account of the fact that the issues which should have been discussed during the meeting are actively before the courts of law, and that any such discussion would be subjudice. The following are the cases in court; Chapter One Foundation Limited versus the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Attorney General in the Constitutional Court, Getrude Imenda (suing in her capacity as Deputy Secretary General of the United Party for National Development (UPND) versus the Electoral Commission of Zambia and the Attorney General in the High Court of Zambia. The Commission apologises for the inconvenience caused as a result of this postponement,” stated Bwalya.
“The Commission will advise stakeholders and the general public on further engagements after the court cases have been disposed of. The Commission remains committed to engaging all stakeholders regarding the upcoming 2021 General Elections. Once again the Commission apologises for the inconvenience caused by the postponement.”
But at a press briefing, Wednesday, Kambwili wondered if issues were only subjudice if they affected the opposition.
“Today is a sad day, an extremely sad day in the preparations of the 2021 general elections. Yesterday ECZ communicated to all political parties that they were going to meet stakeholders so that we can discuss the issue of online voter registration and the issue of doing away with the old register. All of us political parties were ready. I received a number of calls from fellow presidents and secretary generals encouraging all of us to attend today’s meeting. Unfortunately, ECZ has communicated to all of us in the last 30 minutes that the meeting has been cancelled and the reason they have given is that this matter cannot be discussed because there is a court case going on in which UPND and some NGOs have gone to challenge ECZ over these same issues of online voter registration and of course the doing away with the old register. Should it only be subjudice when it favors the opposition?” Kambwili asked.
“When it favors ECZ or it favors the ruling government it is not subjudice. When there was an issue of Bill 10, the UPND did allude to the fact that we cannot continue considering Bill 10 because there is a matter in court. The PF through its lawyers and parliament refused totally and went ahead and considered Bill 10 despite the fact that the matter was in court and it was tantamount to subjudice. Why should it be good for them to go ahead and continue the voter registration which is the bone of contention and refuse to meet the stakeholders on the pretext that it is subjudice?”
He said ECZ missed an opportunity to resolve some issues surrounding voter pre-registration.
“I don’t know where this country is going. Today could have been an opportunity for all of us to be heard and obviously resolve the issues surrounding the online voter registration and indeed the doing away with the old register. But somebody somewhere has engineered that this meeting should not go ahead. But I think what they are trying to do is to play hide and seek so that they can force those who have gone to court to withdraw the cases and at the end of it all, they don’t resolve the issues. This is not good for Zambia,” he argued.
Kambwili insisted that registering nine million people in a month was impossible.
“This register was registered in about three elections and yet you want to squeeze it to be registered in 30 days. You cannot capture 9 million people in 30 days! It is practically impossible. And the law is very clear, it says ‘there should be continuous voter registration’ Why do you want to bring your own laws and cancel the register? We have missed an opportunity to sit round the table and discuss as Zambians. My appeal to ECZ is that it is not too late; can you call for this meeting tomorrow (today). This meeting should have not only been confined to political parties, even civil society should be invited, even the church,” Kambwili said.
He urged President Lungu to advise ECZ against discarding the old voters’ register.
“Please Mr (Esau) Chulu, my dear brother (Patrick) Nshindano respect the views of the Zambian people. For once do the right thing! Surely you want to go down in history as the people who set Zambia on fire. Issues of elections are very sensitive. I am glad that President Edgar Lungu came out openly saying that he does not support the doing away with the old register, we welcome that. But you can go further than that by engaging ECZ to tell them to announce that the old register will still be valid,” said Kambwili.