FORMER Zambia Correctional Service (ZCS) commissioner general Percy Chato says some stakeholders will cry foul following the outcome of next year’s general election because there’s lack of adequate regulation regarding inmates voting.
And UPND national chairperson Mutale Nalumango says there was no need to rush into allowing inmates to vote because there is no legal mechanism to guarantee a free and fair vote in correctional facilities.
On Monday, ZCS Commissioner General Dr Chisela Chileshe said that physical presence was not the only mode of campaigning in correctional facilities, explaining that leaflets and the media could be used to reach out to inmates.
But in an interview, Chato cautioned that without regulations, it would be difficult to enforce accountability among all interested stakeholders participating in next year’s polls.
“The first thing that was needed is to have regulations in place. By regulations in place, I think it will be better for everyone to know what will be done, what is expected to be done and how the issues of campaigns will be regulated in correctional centres. Before we do anything else, there was a need to put regulations. We won’t have any reference materials and to make people accountable on what needs to be done. I think you heard a statement, which was issued in Monze. In the absence of regulations, it is difficult for us to know what needs to be expected in correctional centres. So, issues of brochures, TV if they are not backed by regulations, it will be difficult. We had an opportunity for all this to be put in place. If these things are not put in place, I think everyone else will be crying foul looking at the stance the head of correctional services (ZCS Commissioner General Dr Chisela Chileshe) put up when he was in Monze that opposition will not be given an opportunity to campaign in correctional facilities,” said Chato.
And in a separate interview, Nalumango charged that the ruling party was using mechanisms to rig elections using inmates.
“We are messed up as a nation! What you have to remember is that for the inmates to vote, it is a choice and to make a choice, you must know the people you are choosing. The President and ministers will be going into the facilities in the name of their positions. So, where is the equal access? When we have been doubting the registration itself because some inmates don’t have NRCs. What did they use? And who is inspecting whether it is only Zambians who are voting? Because jails are not only for Zambians. Who will be checking to see if the same brochures have reached the inmates? They must admit that this is a sham! They are trying to put in all sorts of rigging mechanisms that include registering prisoners without a legal framework. They had the time. That judgement did not come yesterday, why didn’t they work out the legal framework for them to register and regulate how those prisoners will be reached? This is not free and fair!” complained Nalumango.
“If, today, you came up with a TV station that we could use? Do you think it will last to next year? They will close it. We have seen media houses closed. Chisela has proved himself that he is a cadre, he should never have been making political comments. He is our employee. This government has turned our nation upside down where professionals have become political cadres and uttering political statements. Allowing prisoners to vote may be a right, according to the judgement, but every time there is judgement, you have to find regulations. This is a government of the humble man, the ‘President-General,’ the many of many titles performing nothing just bringing confusion in our land. The Electoral Commission is not explaining anything to Zambians so everyone of us are left to speculate. Zambians must demand that we need to know! We are in trouble whether we like it or not, these people don’t mean well. There was no need to rush to allow prisoners. In fact, they will be shocked that prisoners will not vote for them. Who is not feeling the pinch?”