MINISTRY of Home Affairs Permanent Secretary Masiye Banda says officers in charge of correctional facilities are obliged by law to ensure that the provisions of the Electoral Process Act are followed during this year’s general election.
Speaking when he appeared before the Parliamentary committee on legal affairs, national guidance, gender matters and governance, Tuesday, Banda said officers who did not adhere to this act could be disciplined for breaching the law.
He was responding to a question from Mumbwa Central UPND member of parliament Credo Nanjuwa, who wanted to find out if there was any redress for affected parties when officers in charge of facilities denied them access.
“Honourable chair, first of all, when it comes to campaign, distribution of campaign materials when you get there, in recorded form, documents and even on the voting day itself, there will be those who will be allowed like the poll monitors, the agents and so forth. So, the officer in charge is obliged because this is law. I think the way we can be disciplined in breaching any other law, it is the same because this is law,” Banda said.
He, however, noted that the Bill only provided for those in remand and those serving custodial sentences as it was not feasible to include those in police cells because their detention was temporary with provisions such as bond and bail depending on the offense committed.
And in response to another question by Nanjuwa on what cure was going to be derived from refusal to publish results in correctional facilities before the ECZ, Banda clarified that only official ECZ results, such as those posted on notice boards would be allowed to be announced.
“The announcement is not absolutely bad so to say, it’s not bad in acting terms, it cannot be made by unauthorised persons, that’s what it says. It prohibits the announcement and declaration of results by unauthorised persons, only ECZ has the mandate…That is not an offence, Honourable, because we have said it is the Electoral Commission (that) has announced the votes. That medium of posting on the board, it means they have announced officially. So, this clause here is quite clear, but instead of the evangelist himself now putting on the board, writing, that one is another thing. It means even his sermons of marriage, I will not listen anymore,” he added.
And when asked what the deponents were for those issued in correctional facilities by Dundumwezi UPND member of parliament Edgar Sing’ombe, Banda said that the issuance of NRCs was done in such a way that families were brought to stand in for the inmates in the case of those who lost their NRCs.
“This question has got a two-phased approach. One, there were those who already had but maybe they had been lost, it was a matter of replacement and then they’re those maybe it could have been first for different situations. For those where we were doing replacements, we already have biodata, but I must state that when somebody is incarcerated, it’s not that the touch with the relatives have been lost completely, no. It is the reason why, as the correctional service, we have what we call extension services, those officers are a bridge between a community where those people are coming from and the inmates inside. So, in many instances, you will be interested to know that this exercise of issuing NRCs, a lot of work was actually put in, including getting in touch with relatives who many of them came to stand in for their relatives, where it was necessary, Honourable. That goes for those who it was a new issuance,” replied Banda.
And appearing before the committee earlier, UNZA lecturer Dr Gistered Muleya expressed concern over the protection of inmates against intimidation on voting day.
He was responding to Sing’ombe who wanted to find out how the inmates would be protected from intimidation on voting day.
“Chair, I think this is why we are making the general observation that is also our source of concern. If you got what I said in the general observation, the Bill does not make mention of access by the media and any party official in the absence of the candidate, which implies that this category will not be allowed near the prisons during the elections and this means that those interested parties like key stakeholders, the political parties, the Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and the media will not have any access to these places. And so in the event that no one is given that possibility to see or to follow the proceedings of the elections in those centres, then in our view, surely, it creates those concerns that for others may lead to intimidation or for others may lead to not really accepting the results that will come out of this process,” said Muleya.