HOME Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo says none of the nearly 1.6 million National Registration Cards (NRCs) issued to eligible Zambians between August 1 and November 4, 2020, were given to foreign nationals.

Speaking during a ministerial statement on the purported issuance of registration cards to non-eligible persons in Parliament, Thursday, Kampyongo insisted that the Ministry did not issue foreigners NRCs, contrary to a misconception.

“Between 1st August and 4th November, 2020, outreach activities were conducted in the form of a mobile National Registration exercise. This undertaking was countrywide and was carried out in two phase; each of these phases covered five provinces. Mr Speaker, the Ministry planned to issue a total number of 1.5 National Registration Cards to eligible Zambians. To this end, I am proud that the Ministry performed above target. A total of 1,592,970 NRCs were issued, representing 106 per cent overall performance. Issuance of the exercise was intended to provide access to the acquisition of the NRC by citizens, who have attained the age of 16 and above, especially those who cannot reach these district offices. Sir, the Ministry of Home Affairs, through the Department of National Registration Passport and Citizenship, is charged with responsibility of conducting national civil registration as well as issuance of travel documents,” Kampyongo said.

He, however, disclosed that three officers from the Department of National Registration, Passports and Citizenship were arrested for the theft of NRC cards.

“Such a mammoth task could not have gone without challenge. Prior to the exercise in January, 2019, the Department of NRP and Citizenship lost a total of 1,500 blank NRCs. This matter was reported to the Zambia Police, which in-turn instituted investigations. Three officers from the Department of National Registration, Passports and Citizenship have been arrested and will appear in the courts of law soon. On 18 October, 2020, two officials from a known opposition party, while being featured on Muvi TV programme known as The Assignment produced a large number of NRCs that they claimed were irregularity issues. One of the NRCs displayed was discovered to have a serial number Z14228282, which was in the range of the lost blank cards. The Police have since arrested the two officials for forgery, uttering false documents and being in possession of properties stolen,” he said.

“It is disheartening to note that some sections of society have been spreading falsehoods that NRCs were being issued to under-age children and foreigners. This information and propaganda are fully orchestrated to discredit the government. On the 13th of September, 2020, during the phase one of the mobile issuance of registration cards, a very disturbing incident happened at Chitamba Centre in Lukashya (constituency) of Kasama District; the brief acts of the damage and theft of equipment are that on the material date, five men clad in UPND regalia approached the mobile team and grabbed the set of equipment. The matter was reported to the police who instituted investigations and so far police have managed to arrest five suspects and later charged with the offence of aggravated robbery and malicious damage. Mr Speaker, as a way to mitigate illegal and irregular activities, government is in the process of rolling out the integrated National Registration and Information System.”

But Leader of the Opposition in the House Jack Mwiimbu rose on a point of order to ask if Kampyongo was in order to bring matters that were already before the court.

“Mr Speaker, you have guided on several occasions that matters that are in court cannot be discussed on the floor of this House. Mr Speaker, I heard the Minister of Home Affairs talk about two UPND officials, who were arrested and charged and he further went to give evidence pertaining to the matter that was in court in Mansa. As if that was not enough, he further went to mislead the House and the nation that five UPND officials were charged with aggravated robbery in Kasama pertaining to the NRCs. Mr Speaker, there is no UPND cadre, who has been arrested and charged with aggravated robbery in this country. Is he in order to mislead the nation (on) matters in court? Is he able to lay the evidence on the table?” asked Mwiimbu.

However, Speaker of the National Assembly Dr Patrick Matibini ruled that a brief reference to matters that were in court could not in any way prejudice the proceedings.

“I am sure you recall being a very senior member of the House that we have made reference to matters before the court, but what we have ensured as presiding officers is that we do not go in any depth when debating those matters, especially if the debate is likely to prejudice the court proceedings. At this juncture, I am not satisfied that the brief reference to matters that are in court can in any way prejudice the proceeding before the court. I cannot direct the Minister not to proceed with reference to the court matters. Your point of order raised two issues whether it is competent for this House to debate a matter, which is in court and whether or not the details which the Honourable Home Affairs Minister (referred to) are true,” ruled Dr Matibini.

“On several occasions and particularly in one seminal ruling I rendered in the recent past and in that ruling I had indicated that whether or not a ruling is subjudice and can’t be debated before the House lies within the discretion of the Speaker. In other words, the Speaker or any presiding officer will weigh the prejudice that may arise by allowing the debate to proceed and we are very careful to consider the depth and width of the debate.”

And when pressed further by Namwala UPND member of parliament Moono Lubezhi to identify the purported UPND officials, Kampyongo exposed UPND deputy secretary general Patrick Mucheleka as being one of them.

And when asked by Liuwa UPND member of parliament Dr Situmbeko Musokotwane why the Ministry focused on arresting whistleblowers when Luapula Province was suspected to have foreign nationals that registered and recorded a double of the target of NRCs, a situation he said was unusual, Kampyongo stressed that no responsible government would allow foreigners to get NRCs.

“These projections are made by CSOs and they can be plus or minus. And he also knows that, yes, this is a land-linked country and the province where he is coming from is linked to Angola and other countries and he knows the challenges we face. It is not fair to insinuate that this highest number is attributed to foreign people that came from outside the nation. Mr Speaker, for what purpose? Why would a responsible government go get foreign nationals to get NRCs? Who does that? If it is for transparency, you know what happens at polling stations,” replied Kampyongo.