VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga says the issuance of National Registration Cards (NRC) has attracted attention because it is being handled in a discriminatory manner, which is unconstitutional.

And Mwaanga says the national motto of ‘one Zambia, one nation’, whose aim was to enforce unity in the country has been devalued because of a breakdown in the rule of law.

In a statement, Tuesday, Mwaanga complained that the ongoing NRC issuance programme was discriminatory against some as evidenced by the problematic process of registering voters in areas perceived to be opposition strongholds.

“The tripartite elections are a few months away. The electoral process has begun in earnest with the issuance of National Registration Cards and the registering of voters. The issuing of NRCs has attracted attention because of the discriminatory manner in which it is being done. There is a public perception that NRCs are being issued willy-nilly in areas where the ruling PF predominates, therefore, disadvantaging areas perceived to be opposition strongholds. This became a partisan issue. The registration of voters has proved problematic because at many registration points, including where I vote, the centres opened one week later than the time frame given by the Electoral Commission of Zambia. When they eventually opened, it became clear that they were short-staffed and queues became longer and longer, with potential voters standing in the line for two to three days,” Mwaanga said.

“It is a matter of fact that an Act was passed by Parliament, providing for continuous registration of voters, but very little effort, if any, has been made to encourage people to continuously register as voters. Every Zambian, who has reached the age of 16 years, is by law and right entitled to have an NRC. Our country has had a history of contested elections and this partly stems from the fact that the current crop of leaders – particularly those in government – don’t seem to understand and recognise the intrinsic importance and value of political dialogue, which has served our country well in the past.”

And Mwaanga bemoaned the national motto of ‘one Zambia, one nation’ whose aim was to enforce unity in the country had been devalued because of a breakdown in the rule of law.

“Let us face reality. We are all Zambians and have an equal stake in this country. The founding fathers of our country, led by our founding president, Dr Kenneth Kaunda, left a solid foundation, based on ‘One Zambia, One Nation,’ which has kept our country together for 56 years. This national motto has regrettably undergone major reconstruction surgery in the last few years. Its value has been watered down. This is tantamount to betrayal of those who fought so hard for our independence and paid with their blood and their lives to see ‘One Zambia, One Nation,’ become a reality. In the recent past, there have been irresponsible tribal statements by Ministers, which have gone unpunished,” he said.

“We have also had government Ministers, who were misled by President Edgar Lungu, to continue in office, after the dissolution of the National Assembly, refusing to comply with a judgement of the Constitutional Court, to repay all the salaries, allowances, advances and any other monies they may have earned, when they illegally stayed in power. This level of insubordination is unprecedented in the history of Zambia. Do we have different sets of laws for Ministers and ordinary citizens? President Lungu should have compelled his Ministers to repay the money back to government. The President, instead, became part of the conspiracy of silence – at least publicly. Ministers who made tribal utterances were promptly dismissed. I hold this to be true, because I was part of that era.”

He said government should set high standards and ensure that they avoid using provocative language.

“Provocative language is being used by government leaders and some opposition leaders. It is the duty of government leaders to set high standards and lead by example by desisting from making wounding tribal and other offensive statements for the sake of our country and its future. Only then, will they have the moral campus to hold the opposition to similar standards. If they fail to do so, we shall regrettably be building a country of ‘lows’ instead of ‘laws.’ We must listen and respect each other, even when we disagree, because democracy accommodates differences of opinion. Women and young people must take this opportunity to register as voters in large numbers so that they achieve the Zambia they want to see going forward,” said Mwaanga.

“Women, the disabled and young people are grossly underrepresented in the National Assembly and in local councils. Zambia is a signatory to the SADC and AU protocols, calling for 50-50 gender parity in Parliament, other elective offices and in bodies, such as Cabinet. Our numbers of women in Parliament and local councils have been reducing, instead of increasing. At present, Rwanda leads the whole world in terms of gender representation in Parliament, Cabinet, local councils and boardrooms of companies. Our women deserve better. Young people should not listen to leaders who keep saying that: ‘you are the future leaders.’ They have been saying this for years. For the young people, I can only tell them that: ‘your future is NOW!’ All political parties should bear this in mind when adopting Parliamentary and local council candidates in the elections scheduled for August 12, 2021.”