THE Zambia Law Development Agency says during the mapping exercise, most inmates and officers submitted against allowing political campaigns in correctional facilities.
And the Electoral Commission of Zambia says the Commission was fully guided by the Attorney General to start registering inmates.
Speaking during a virtual meeting, Thursday, ZLDC senior research officer Lina Jere said there were recommendations by stakeholders that campaigns would cause disciplinary issues and would undermine security in the facility.
“In subsection four which is a new addition, it reads ‘a candidate or political party shall not enter correctional facilities for the purposes of conducting physical campaigns’. This provision was inserted in accordance with the recommendations of some stakeholders who justified this provision by saying that it was standard practice for security wings to disallow campaigns on their premises; that is barracks and camps for security reason. Campaigns would cause disciplinary issues and would undermine security in the facility. Many prisons don’t have the appropriate infrastructure to be able to be able to accommodate such activities. During the mapping exercise, it was found that the majority of the response of both inmates and officers submitted against allowing political campaigns in correctional facility,” Jere said.
“In the comparative study, it was found that in Lesotho and South Africa, [they] do not permit political campaigns in the facilities. But to address the concerns of stakeholders on the need to ensure that inmates have access to information in order to make voting decisions the committee recommended strengthening the distribution of campaign materials in the facilities by developing regulations.”
She said there were recommendations that all political players should be given equal treatment.
“Article 29 (1) is on the electoral campaigns. A public officer or state institution shall give equal treatment to candidates. A candidate or political party has the right to have the content of the candidate or political party campaign message reported in public media in a fair and balanced manner. A candidate or political party may during an electoral campaign, publish or distribute campaign material of such nature in such a manner as may be prescribe by the Commission,” she said
When asked when what would happen to the inmates that would have left the correctional facility, Jere hoped they would come back to the correctional facility to vote.
“Alternately, inmates will also be free if say the correctional facility will be in the prison, inmates who are released before the election date will be free to come back to the prison in order to vote,” she said.
Jere said according to the submission from stakeholders, there was a specification that the NRC should be green to separate the NRCs that are provided to Zambian citizens from the cards that are provided to foreign nationals.
“According to the submission from stakeholders, we specified that the NRC should be green to separate the NRCs that are provided to Zambian citizens from the cards that are provided to foreign nationals. We’ll be presenting the three amendments that we developed as well as the regulations to the electoral commission act. The electoral process amendment bill 2021, the objective of this bill is to amend the electoral process act 2016 so as to repeal section 91(e) and f and section 47 of the electoral process act. Provide for campaigns by political parties in prisons or correctional facilities, provide for access to correctional facilities by monitors, election observers, polling agents on election day, provide access to the community to vote in polling stations established in prisons and correctional facility centres and matters connected with or incidental to the foregoing. In accordance to the submission from stakeholders, the memorandum outlined all of the salient issues that are addressed in this amendment bill,” said Jere.
“The principal act is amended by the insertion of the following section immediately after section 24. 24 (a) is on establishment of poling stations in prions and correctional centres, it read’ where the Commission establishes a poling station in a prison centre, that polling station shall be used by prisoners, prison officers and members of the public. In accordance with the submission from stakeholders, this will allow prisoners, members of the public to have access to the facility for registration and voting so as to enhance secrecy of the ballot of prisoners and prison officers who will be voting at those poling station. 24 (b) is access to prison centers, it read’ the officer in charge of the prison center shall grant access to a prison to the following; the Commission for the purpose of conducting electrical process, political party representative for the purpose of distributing material in the prescribed manner, accredited poling agents for the purpose of observing the election and members of the public for purposed of voting.’”
And ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano said the Commission was fully guided by the Attorney General to commence registration of inmates.
“We are also mindful of the time that we are remaining with before Parliament adjourns so we need to ensure that as a Commission, this right is actualized. There were comments in reference made to the process having started prematurely, for purposes of voter registration, we were fully guided by Attorney General in reference to the judgment and there was no contradiction whatsoever in terms of the legal provisions. It is an honor for the Commission to be part of this process but also to ensure that this is also implemented. It is a milestone for Zambia’s democracy and indeed in the upholding of human rights when we talk about actualizing the right of persons in lawful custody to be able vote. But this can not be realized without the participation of key stakeholders and we are very grateful for the input you have continuously provided,” said Nshindano.
“As you are fully aware, this process has attempted to be consultative. In as much as one would want to do more, almost all stakeholders have been engaged in every process since the judgment was passed. We would have hoped that every stakeholder was present at every process but alas that has not been the case but we have attempted to ensure that is done. We hope that you will also take full advantage of the different spaces for consultations that are available especially when we get to the legislative stage and committee stage in Parliament and submit whatever issues we might have left out in this process.”