UPND leader Hakainde Hichilema has refuted remarks by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) that political parties agreed to replace the current voters register.

And Green Party president Peter Sinkamba says that it is risky for the country to have ECZ commissioners who don’t know their limits because they can cause acrimony.

But Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) leader Sean Tembo says he doesn’t understand his colleagues’ issue with ECZ, arguing that 30 days is more than adequate for a new voters roll to be put in place.

Speaking when they featured on Diamond TV’s Costa program, Hichilema said it was a lie for ECZ to claim that political parties agreed to replace the voters register.

“Electoral Commission, you are indicting yourselves, you are acting in a biased manner, you are eroding the credibility of the electoral process and everything hangs on the credibility of the electoral process for results to be taken as credible. And we don’t have to remind you that you need to act in accordance with the instructions of the people of Zambia and the laws that exist at the time. Ignore people who are emotionally charged, ignore people who tell you to do wrong things because when the time of reckoning comes, you will be on your own. So come to the table, talk to us, it is a lie to say we political parties agreed to the doing away of the voters register. Continue with the current voter register, it is legal, it is you to improve on by adding new voters,” Hichilema said.

He charged that stopping people from airing their views on the flaws of the electoral process was rigging.

“If you want to operate outside the law as what the ECZ and their friends are doing is what will cause a constitutional crisis. Let me remind citizens and indeed the electoral commission, if chaos arises in this country because you are mismanaging the electoral process, you will be held accountable. It is you and your friends. Today, you called an emergency meeting, all of us geared up to go to an election, because a sidekick was made so that citizens don’t air their views about the flaws in the electoral process, in the registration, including NRC issuance which is a function that leads you to being a voter, you cancel the meeting because an instruction has come. This is rigging the elections and I want to appeal to the people of Zambia, do don’t sit watching people rigging your elections and therefore that’s where the constitutional crisis will come from, it will be on the heads of ECZ and those who are in government who are the PF,” said Hichilema.

And Sinkamba said that there was a wrong group of people running the ECZ as they didn’t know what they were doing.

“Today I was surprised to hear that they had even called for a meeting which we were not even aware of and its things like this which indicate that we have a wrong group of commissioners and officers at that institution. I have been involved in election processes for a long time, from 1990, and I think if we are talking about the worst case scenario of having a group of commissioners who appear to know nothing about what to do. This particular group is extremely ignorant of what it must do and they don’t seem to understand the limitation of their powers, that’s where we are. And like I indicated earlier, if we continue with this kind of group which does not seem to understand what it’s doing and they don’t know their limitations, this group is likely to cause acrimony in this country, we can have bloodshed in this country when we are not supposed to do that,” said Sinkamba.

Speaking on the same program, National Democratic Congress leader Chishimba Kambwili alleged that the current group of electoral commissioners were very arrogant and not fit to run the commission.

Kambwili argued that if the registration period was not extended, less than one million voters would be captured in the new register.

“We want to meet the Electoral Commission of Zambia and tell them straight in their faces that what they are proposing is unworkable, there is no way they can register nine million people in one month and I can tell you that by the end of this registration, if we go by the 30 days, there will be less than one million people captured on the register. And for us we don’t want confrontation, what we want is dialogue. We were ready today to meet so that we can dialogue and come up with an acceptable electoral process that all of us as stakeholders would support,” said Kambwili.

“So, when people have got an agenda and they want to achieve their agenda, they always find reasons to explain that agenda. What we are asking is within our rights as Zambians, what is so difficult in the Electoral Commission of Zambia giving three months? What they are saying that we don’t have time, they knew from the last elections in 2016 they knew that the elections will be on the 12th of August, what were they doing to come and start registration at the 11th hour so that they cry foul that we don’t have enough time. Let them give the normal period they have always given, three months for registration and let people go to the registration centres and leave the existing register without tempering with it.”

But Tembo wondered how those opposing the creation of a new voters roll on the basis of inadequate time thought nine million voters could cast their votes in a single day.

“So if ECZ does not have capacity to register nine million people in 30 days then where is it going to get capacity to allow nine million voters to be able to vote in one day? Those are the issues that you need to answer if you are objecting to the voters roll on the basis if the period allocated,” Tembo said.

“It is very possible and even a week, they can register in a week, it depends on the number of registration points that they are going to put on the ground. If they allocate let’s say three registration points per ward, that is more than adequate. So it all depends on a number of variables, it depends on the efficiency with which they are issuing the registration cards, it depends on the number of registration points that are there in a given ward. I can assure you that that 30 can be more than adequate. However if the process is not as efficient, then obviously the 30 days will not be adequate, even two months will not be adequate but we cannot know whether the process with which ECZ will be registering voters will be efficient or not until and unless we get to that point.”

He said Hichilema and Kambwili were using a cheap tactic of discrediting the electoral process so that they could have an excuse when they lose next year’s polls.

“The picture I get is that my fellow two opposition leaders are basically trying to create a platform or a narrative to the Zambian people that the electoral process is rigged so that it can explain their potential loss next year. And if you ask me, that tactic is a very cheap tactic because it has the potential to actually destabilize the country. You cannot be planting seeds that the electoral process is rotten, is rigged when you don’t have evidence to that effect. The only evidence you have to that effect is actually speculation that people might not be allowed to register in 30 days, that is speculation and not adequate evidence on the basis of which you can say the electoral process has been rigged. Unless to know that your political fortunes have actually dwindled and come next year, you are not likely to perform better and you want to have some kind of explanation to give to supporters why you have lost the election,” said Tembo.

“Those two gentlemen Kambwili and HH when it comes to understanding the law, I think they can learn a lot from our position as a party and even myself because I have taken three cases to court ever since we started our party, I have taken two cases to the High Court and one case to the Constitutional Court. And all the cases we have ever taken to court, we have won them. And those two gentlemen maybe they can tell the Zambian people if they believe that their reasoning and their thinking is accurate, they can tell the Zambian people when they last won a case in court. Because when you are interpreting the law, you need to be sober minded and both president HH and president Kambwili are very far from being sober minded so they are incapable of properly interpreting the law and that is their biggest handicap.”