ACTING Chief Government Spokesperson Joyce Simukoko says reports that people are spending long hours on registration queues are a matter of concern especially that government has supported the Electoral Commission of Zambia to conduct the exercise efficiently.

And Liuwa UPND member of parliament Situmbeko Musokotwane says strange things happening such as malfunctioning of gensets, shortage of ink and few people being registered during the mobile voter registration process are disenfranchising people.

Meanwhile, PF secretary general Davies Mwila says the integrity of any election begins with a smooth and efficient voter registration process.

In a statement, Wednesday, Simukoko, who is Minister of Labour, urged the Commission to resolve all matters leading to the reported delays and ensure that citizens are not disenfranchised in any way.

“Government is deeply concerned about the reportedly slow pace at which the registration of voters is being concluded. Government has taken note of the complaints by the citizens indicating that it is taking too long for officers of ECZ to register one individual leading to people spending long hours at registration queues. This is a matter of concern to government especially against the backdrop that government has done everything possible to support the commission to conduct this exercise efficiently. Government wishes to urge the Commission to resolve all matters that are leading to the reported delays and ensure that citizens are not disenfranchised in anyway. Government remains hopeful that ECZ will live up to the expectations of the citizens and the reported ‘teething’ problems will not persist longer than necessary.” stated Simukoko.

And speaking during a press briefing, Wednesday, Musokotwane lamented that the registration process was extremely slow.

He asked ECZ to maintain, but only update the old voters register.

“At the moment we have a voter’s roll which what we were told more than six million voters already on the existing roll and obviously, it will not make sense to introduce a new voter roll that disfranchises people. The number of voters should be increasing in tandem with the increase in population not going down because we are introducing systems that are not conducive to bring everybody who is a voter to be on the voter’s roll. The first experience that we are getting is that there is delay in teams arriving on site. In the first phase, teams were supposed to arrive on the 9th of November, as we speak now, there are places, certainly Liuwa, unless they have arrived today but they have already lost two days. So the question is are the days we have lost going to be compensated? For those that have arrived, we have experienced strange things in certain cases after registering 20 people, the officers are saying ‘we have run out of ink’. Now how is it possible within the first few hours, the officers are saying they have run out of ink, were these machines new? Were these machines inspected? Were these machines in order? We have also heard stories of the gensets failing. As we speak now, at a place called Mukola, yesterday after registering 13 people, the genset failed,” Musokotwane lamented.

He said ECZ should do something that is good for the whole country.

“The process is extremely slow, on the first day, it was taking 30 to 40 minutes to register one person and there is only one officer and the person is the police officer. And these are the issues we brought to the attention of when we met with them yesterday. At first they tried to defend themselves but we said ‘look we are telling the issues on the ground’ because ECZ is not an institution for one person, one political party, it is an institution for all of us. It must do something that is good for the people of Zambia. It is our institution funded by our taxes. It is taking far too long. It can’t go on like this,” he said.

Musokotwane wondered how 9 million people would be registered when only 50 people were being registered per day.

“If we end up with the voter’s roll that is fewer people than what we have today under the 2016 voter’s roll , then there is nothing that we are doing. If you are moving so slowly, we might as well focus on the young boys and girls who have received NRCs now, maybe with that you can manage. But now you are talking about 9 million people when you are registering 50 people per day. What is the intention here? It is the intention of disenfranchising people? We don’t want that in our country. The olden days it was taking three months to do voter registration now we are taking seven days and you are failing to register people. What is the intention? We are calling the ECZ to increase the number of staff. We have observed that when there is one person filling the forms, taking photos, laminating in, it is taking too long. We are also calling ECZ to increase the number of days available so that people can register,” said Musokotwane

Meanwhile, in a statement issued by PF media director Sunday Chanda, Wednesday, Mwila urged ECZ to up its game by ensuring that they increased the number of personnel attending to members of the public.

“Patriotic Front Secretary General Hon. Davies Mwila has expressed concern at reports from different parts of the country pointing to the slow pace in the on-going voter registration exercise. Mwila has since implored the ECZ to urgently and effectively address all issues raised by different stakeholders, if the Commission is to meet its targeted number of registered voters.We are receiving reports from different parts of the Country that its taking in excess of 10 minutes for an individual to be issued with the voter’s card. Added to this is the reported lack of sufficient manpower to attend to citizens expeditiously. We are therefore calling on ECZ to up its game by ensuring that they increase the number of personnel attending to members of the public as well as ensure that there is adequate equipment in areas less catered for,” stated Chanda.

“Mwila has further maintained that: “The Patriotic Front believes that the integrity of any election begins with a smooth and efficient voter registration process. Hence, it is our hope that ECZ will move with speed to address these serious concerns in different parts of the country. ECZ may wish to re-consider stationing their personnel at designated voter registration centres for the stipulated 30 days, as opposed to the ‘rotational formula’ which the Commission is currently implementing. In short, PF is calling for increased manpower and equipment per centre, so as to ensure that as many eligible citizens as possible get registered as voters.”