ELECTORAL Commission of Zambia (ECZ) Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano says the commission is hell-bent on delivering credible elections and will suspend any erring political parties and candidates during the campaign period which will run from May 24 to August 11.

And Nshindano says the commission will not allow candidates to bring supporters during nominations in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Speaking during Diamond TV’s Diamond Live programme, Monday, Nshindano said the ECZ amended its electoral code so that it could easily sanction erring political parties and candidates.

“First of all, we need to appreciate, and the public needs to appreciate that ours is a constitutional mandate. We have dates that we need to observe so 12th of August is almost a cast in concrete as they say. So, this, is why we put up a calendar to observe the different statutory dates that are there. Starting from the campaign, nominations dates, we need to ensure that those are observed hence this calendar. And we hope that political parties have taken keen interest in looking at this calendar so that they arrange their activities including intra-party activities in line with this so that come time for nominations, they would have concluded with their intra party elections. On the part of legislature, we will keep a very keen eye in terms of when the House will basically adjourn or close, so we will be able to determine administratively if it overlaps into the time one needs to pay, that can easily be adjusted but based on our projections, by that time, the House would have basically not been sitting at that point in time,” Nshindano said.

“The public should be able to condemn electoral violence and we need the police also to work with us. So, the commission did amend the electoral code of conduct last year. Part of that is to ensure that we strengthen sanctioning as provided for. We will be able to move in our own instance when it comes to sanctioning political parties, erring political parties within what is prescribed by law which is miner disputes when it comes to the electoral code of conduct. And we will do that religiously. We will sanction political parties and individuals who will be found wanting because we are determined and we have resolved that we will deliver a credible election, we will not be swayed by circumstances. That is why I said we will sanction erring political parties and individuals. But there has been a lot of investment with key stakeholders including the police and the police will be launching something around elections. So, we don’t want these elections to be marred by violence because when you disqualify a candidate, there are also other issues that arise. There are others who will feel dishearten and say this candidate was disqualified because that other candidate was favoured, we don’t want that.”

And Nshindano said the commission would not allow candidates to bring supporters during nominations.

“A candidate will not have to bring support during nominations because of COVID-19. This is why I’m saying this time around, we have an enhanced system in our voter registration. We are able to use biometrics. So, we will be able to identify supporters using voter identification devices. So, we will be able to say in this area, we will capture your biometrics and registered voters for a particular candidate and satisfy that provision. You don’t need to come with a whole bunch of people where the nomination process will be done. That will be very easy and straight forward and less stressful on the commission where we don’t have to do head count, one, two, three, four. So that system has at least advanced and we will be able to do so and that has also to cover for the health guidelines as well. During the campaign period we will ensure that all candidates have access to various platforms that are available including the public broadcasters is what people mostly talk about. On the aspect of international observers, it’s very unfortunate sometimes I tend to think that as a country we enjoy misinformation or creating some sort of confusion even where it’s not necessary. The corporate affairs manager did issue out a statement in response to calls by civil society organisations to domestic observer missions. I think in one of those requests I think it was also to reduce on international observers. The commission was very categorical, it started first by highlighting the role that observers play this is both domestic and international observers,” Nshindano said.

“It enhances credibility even though observer missions are being questioned more and more. What we advised the observer missions is to use local staff here in case there are travel restrictions and at no point did the commission say we will not allow international observers. We have put up a measure, first one is that all candidates will be required to pay up 14 days before nomination. This is to allow a smooth process of the nomination so that on the day of the nomination, we are just cross checking. This time around the nominations will be done only once, when you miss out something that’s it. We won’t be able to go back again and start attending to the same person, so let me warn candidates ahead of time.”