GOVERNMENT has closed all National Registration Centre (NRC) offices in Lusaka due to COVID-19 infections.

And Monze Central UPND member of parliament Jack Mwiimbu says all registration offices in Southern Province have also been closed to facilitate an audit of the mobile registration process that ended on November 5, 2020.

“I would like to state that the decision that has been made by the Government of the Republic of Zambia through the Ministry of Home Affairs and the provincial administration is very unfortunate pertaining to the issuance of NRC. The government has decided to conduct an audit of mobile registration voters that took place more than two weeks ago. As a result of the purported audit, all the National Registration Centres have been closed. Members of the public, who had no opportunity to obtain National Registration Cards during the mobile registration, have been turned away because of the decision of government,” Mwiimbu said in an interview.

“You may be aware that the Vice-President and the Minister of Home Affairs issued statements on the floor of the House that district registration offices would remain open throughout the period when the registration of voters will be taking place. Therefore, those who could not obtain registration cards during the mobile process of issuance of registration cards was taking place. Unfortunately, this decision has been effected. As I am speaking, all the districts in Southern Province have been ordered to close; multitudes of people, who have been going to the district offices to obtain NRCs, have been turned away.”

Mwiimbu, who is also Leader of the Opposition in Parliament, added that the decision to close all offices in the province was a deliberate ploy by the PF government to disenfranchise the people of Southern Province.

“I have no doubt in my mind that the intention of government is to disenfranchise the multitudes of people, who are turning up at registration centres. This disenfranchising of our people is unconstitutional and should be condemned by every right-thinking Zambian. Southern Province is part of Zambia. The people of Southern Province should not be discriminated; they should be treated equally like any other citizens of Zambia. Even when the mobile registration process was ongoing, we had a lot of difficulties in Southern Province, Western Province and other areas. Because of those difficulties, they had to extend the exercise for five days,” said Mwiimbu.

“We have been hearing statements that the PF have taken control of Southern Province, if they have, why are they now starting to disenfranchise the people? If they are the ones in charge of Southern Province, what is the motivation? We call upon the Minister of Home Affairs (Stephen Kampyongo) to direct all his officers to get back to their offices and start working prudently and issue National Registration Cards to would-be voters. I went to the DC’s office in Monze and she (Muleya Munachongo) confirmed that they are doing audits and I have got reports from the other MPs in Southern Province and all the districts across.”

But Ministry of Home Affairs public relations officer Nephas Chifuta said in a separate interview that government had only suspended the issuance of NRCs in Lusaka, and not Southern Province, due to COVID-19 infections.

“I have just been talking to the department responsible, the National Registration Office in Lusaka. The position is that it is only in Lusaka where they closed down the office because of the reported cases of COVID-19. In Southern Province, all the offices are operational. It is just unfortunate that we still have MPs that would want to politic every time. All the offices in Southern Province are operational. We haven’t given any directive apart from the situation in Lusaka, the rest of the provinces in the country, all our registration offices in the district are operational. It is just politicking! Our colleagues would want to build political mileage in any given situation,” said Chifuta.

“The situation is obtaining in Lusaka, but they have transferred to Southern Province? Very unfortunate. I would advise them that if they observe certain situations on the ground, the situation may not actually be the way he has seen it; the best is to call us so that we give the position. Not them to be issuing statements that are not factual, it is unfair. Let them first verify!”