NATIONAL Democratic Congress (NDC) vice-president Joseph Akafumba says the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has demonstrated that they are incapable of handling next year’s general election from the way they are conducting the registration of voters exercise.

And Akafumba has urged the Commission to extend the registration of voters exercise in response to the rising COVID-19 infections that caused the closure of some registration centres in Lusaka.

In an interview, Akafumba said the Commission had embarrassed itself during the voter registration exercise, causing people to lose confidence in them.

“The current Electoral Commission of Zambia, to me, the way they are conducting the current voter registration is an embarrassment because they appear not to be listening to anybody. Just by the way they have conducted this voter registration, we can tell that they are incapable of conducting the elections next year. They have their own agenda, I don’t know where they want to take this country to, especially general elections, which are extremely important, they build or break nations. Countries have gone to wars and people have killed each other because of disputed elections. So, this ECZ, for once, they must take out the cotton wool from their ears and listen to what the people have to say. But I don’t know whose agenda this is,” Akafumba said.

“Really, Esau Chulu and his group, these elections and the registration of voters are meant for the people of Zambia, not for themselves or the PF. So, from the word go they must level the playing field, they must be seen to be neutral referees, not what we seem to be seeing. We told them that this 30 days that you have allocated to capture the expected nine million voters is not enough, but they insisted. We told them that this online voter registration, which you are introducing where you don’t have access to smartphones will not work. But what is happening now is that even if you registered online, it’s as if you didn’t register. You go on a queue and start afresh. They have tried to do whatever they can, but the system is not working. Now, people are registering at midnight.”

And Akafumba urged the Commission to extend the registration of voters exercise on account of an increase in COVID-19 infections.

“I went to the Civic Centre and at 02.00, people were on the queue and registering! This is not right. Now, with COVID-19 on the rise, there is no reason whatsoever for a reasonable Commission, which wants to see free and fair elections to refuse to extend the voter registration, especially that all registration centres in Lusaka were closed. So, we are calling on them that, please, you must extend the voter registration period and make sure that you capture the targeted nine million voters because now, it is extremely difficult to register as a voter because the ECZ has made a difficult approach to this whole thing. So, we call on them, for once, to extend the voter registration exercise immediately so the people can register. Most registration centres where people were supposed to register were closed because of COVID-19, that is not the people’s doing, it’s not anybody’s fault. Because of the COVID-19, they must extend the voter’s registration immediately,” Akafumba said.

“The ECZ have demonstrated that they are incapable of handling the 2021 election. They have demonstrated just by the way they have handled this registration exercise. We told them from the word go that you need to build confidence into the electorate, into voters, into stakeholders and all political parties from the way you are handling this. Now, the way they are conducting themselves, I can assure you that we have seen many officers at the Electoral Commission of Zambia. We are not conducting voter registration for the first time in this country. We have been conducting this voter registration for sometime now in this country and I can tell you that they have been properly handled with no complaints of this nature.”

He stressed that the ECZ ought to instill confidence in citizens prior to next year’s polls.

“This Commission that we have of Nshindano and Esau Chulu is the worst in the history of Zambia! And they have made people right now lose confidence in them. How can anyone have confidence with all these mistakes they are making and you have to register at 02.00 to vote? How can you have confidence in the system? They really have work to build confidence in the people so that we know that they mean well for the electorate. This 2021 election is very crucial because we are deciding the leadership of this country amidst economic pressures so they cannot be casual in the way they are handling this election. To tell you the truth, if you are to conduct a survey today, if you were to ask the people of Zambia if they have confidence in this Commission, they would be lucky if they were to get two per cent of the votes. It’s not late, but let them pull up their socks!” said Akafumba.