ELECTORAL Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has extended the voter registration exercise but says the duration will only be announced next Tuesday to allow for a comprehensive review of statistics and logistical arrangements.

And ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano says it is impossible for the voter registration exercise to run in perpetuity as there are other processes such as verification that need to be done before the 2021 elections.

Meanwhile, Nshindano says it is healthy for stakeholders to raise concerns because this allows the commission take up different views and assure them that ECZ is working in the best interest of the nation.

Speaking during a media briefing, Saturday, Nshindano said that the exercise would close today and resume on Wednesday, after announcement of the extension period.

“The Commission has taken into consideration the calls for an extension of the Voter Registration Exercise by some stakeholders. The Commission had earlier indicated that it would review the voter registration exercise at the end, which would inform its next steps. In view of this, the Commission has decided to extend the voter registration exercise. The period of extension will be announced on Tuesday 15th December, 2020. This is to allow for a comprehensive review of the statistics and logistical arrangements. You may also be aware that our Registration officers have worked continuously for the last one month with no break. The 3 days will also allow them to rest and recharge in readiness to resume the voter registration exercise,” Nshindano said.

“Talking about the extension, firstly continuous, I will speak in context of the extension because this is a matter that is before the Constitutional Court so I wouldn’t want to be held in contempt speaking to this matter but in relation to the extension that will be awarded for the period. So it will come a close. What will be awarded to the public is a fixed period and that period will come to a close for the simple reason that we can’t continue because the voter registration exercise needs to be subjected to rejudication, clean up, certification, for use in the elections come 2021 so it will come to a close, it will be for a specific time of period.”

He said total number of registered voters in the fourth phase and the number of prisoners registered would be announced on Tuesday

“In the last update, the Commission announced a total number of 4,321,319 that had been captured during phase 1, 2 and 3 of the exercise. The Commission is yet to consolidate the figures for phase 4 of the exercise which commenced on Thursday 3rd December 2020 and ends today 12th December 2020. In this regard, the cumulative number of registered voters will be announced on Tuesday 15th December 2020 to allow for consolidation of data from the various registration centres across the country. Allow me to mention that the Commission is highly encouraged by the numbers captured in phase 4,” he said.

“The Commission takes note of the calls for disaggregated data for registered voters per province. However, as earlier communicated, this data will only be made available at the end of the Registration Exercise. The current registration allows for a voter to register from anywhere and to vote from their preferred polling station. The disaggregated data will only be available after the consolidation and clean-up of the register.”

He said it was not possible to open all polling stations for registration at the same time.

“Opening all polling stations is not possible and you will note once we give out the statistics on Tuesday that actually most polling stations have actually been mopped up so the deployment will be looking at high areas where we can be able to redeploy and be able to mop up. So the extension is basically meant for mopping up whoever would not have been captured in this phase and we asked the citizens to take full advantage of this window that will be opened up to them in terms of the period that will be announced on Tuesday and ensure that they have themselves registered. Significant number of eligible voters have actually been captured and we speak to this on Tuesday. What will determine the extension, we will have a number, like we said there are statistics that we are going to have which will be able to showcase and also look at other processes that need to happen,” he added.

Nshindano said electoral processes should not be looked at in isolation as voter registration is only part of the process.

“One of the key challenges that we have is that is that we have been looking at electoral processes in isolation and this we keep emphasising and it’s very important colleagues that in the media as well as the general public you understand that registration alone is not enough. When you are talking about credible election processes, everything that needs to be put in place also needs to happen. After this registration exercise, there is an equally critical and very important process which is the de-duplication, clean-up process leading up to the certification of the register. As it stands, it’s possible for us to have multiple registration, it’s possible to have a number of incomplete registration in terms of data, there could be some that were captured as male when in fact they are female, there is a verification process that has to follow and if that is not done properly, you undermine the credibility of the register and indeed of the electoral process because one can contest the register which was the case we had in 2016 and as a commission we want to ensure that we have a register that is robust and credible as we get to 2021,” Nshindano said.

“We want to be able to stand confident and be able to conduct credible elections in a free and transparent manner and this needs to ensure that all processes in the electoral cycle are given the much needed attention as they deserve. You cannot open up voter registration in perpetuity, it’s not possible. You need to take into account other considerations as well and t I it’s important that those are done effectively and efficiently.”

Meanwhile, Nshindano said it was healthy for stakeholders to raise concerns.

“This is expected and it’s healthy, it keeps us in check as a commission in terms of what we are doing but it also allows us to take and consider the view of the different stakeholders and that how it should be, you cannot expect that it will be smooth sailing, we will have stakeholders that will raise concerns and our job is to ensure that we communicate to those stakeholders effectively and tell them what we are doing is in the best interest of the nation,” said Nshindano.