THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) says the 2021 voters register is the most complete and secure in Zambia’s history.

And the ECZ says a technical committee to look at modalities of holding the 2021 general elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been constituted.

At a press briefing, Friday, ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano said the Commission applied equity in the administration of electoral services.

When asked why there was a reduced number of eligible voters in areas like Southern Province, Nshindano said the country had the most secure register in terms of its integrity.

“Elections are critical to the stability of this country for social, economic and political and we need to ensure that whatever we are doing is based on facts and the Commission is doing just that. Zambia for the first time in its history has the most complete register one can talk of, has the most secure register one can talk of in terms of its integrity. This is something that has never happened before. You the media will attest and I remember being queried in this very conference room that ‘why has the Commission deployed more kits to opposition strongholds?’ And our answer was simply the same, for us we apply equity in the administration of electoral services. In the same vain, even when it comes to voting, you will note for example that Southern has the highest number of turnouts, 70 percent whilst other areas in the country record an average of 50 percent. Would you say the commission really favored other areas? If you look at past records, Luapula, Muchinga had the lowest number of registered voters in comparison to the eligible population, would you say the commission favored a particular political party? No,” Nshindano said.

“I think we need to be factual, let us look at what is on the ground, and what is prevailing and how the conduct of elections is done, when the commission is conducting voter registration exercise, we do not look at regions, we do not look at the area we look at Zambia as one constituency. It is political stakeholders and citizens that have divided this country saying this country belongs to a particular individual or this party of the country belongs to a particular party. For purposes of conducting Electoral services, the Commission does not segregate. The constituency for a president is Zambia, it is not North, it is not South, it is not East. So even when we are conducting voter registration, what we look at what are key parameters, the population density, geographical features, number of wards that will determine the number of persons we have deployed to a particular area and in this case, for registration, the number of kits deployed in a particular area.”

And Nshindano said the newly formed technical committee would look at modalities of holding the August elections during the pandemic.

“Those who have followed events this week may be aware that the Commission on behalf of stakeholders announced that the Technical Committee to look at modalities of holding the 2021 general elections amid the COVID-19 pandemic has been constituted and held its inaugural meeting on 31st March, 2021. This followed the 22nd February, 2021 consultative meeting between the Ministry of Health and Electoral Commission of Zambia whose resolution was to form a technical committee to work on mainstreaming COVID-19 prevention mechanisms into the 2021 general election calendar so this has since been constituted and the following are some of the members. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, Ministry of Health, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Local Government. Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI), Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (OVP-DMMU), Zambia Centre for Inter Party Dialogue (ZCID), Civil Society Organisations, Zambia Police Service, Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA) Zambia; and we are leading the process,” he said.

“In the inaugural meeting, the Electoral Commission of Zambia presented the Election Calendar with associated activities while the Ministry of Health on the other hands as well as the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) presented the current country scenario of the COVID-19 pandemic. The two presentations form a basis for what the committee will be focusing on. As a way forward, the meeting agreed to among other things formulate the terms of reference for the technical committee, Ministry of Health to provide disaggregated demographic data and how COVID-19 has affected each population segment, review the adequacy of the legal framework to ascertain levels of adherence and identify structures that will support the cascading of information to the rest of the stakeholders.’

Nshindano said the behavior that was currently being seen in the political area was extremely worrying.

“The Technical Committee will be meeting on a regular basis to speed up the formulation of guidelines and allow for timely engagement of political parties and other stakeholders. As a Commission, we thought we should recap this matter as it is very important to all stakeholders in the electoral process. This was the position of the committee that met the risk and the behavior that we are seeing in terms of the political scenario is extremely worrying. Should Zambia get into a third wave as is anticipated with the winter approaching, we might see elections becoming a super spreader for COVID and we implore all leaders starting with our Head of State right to all political parties to ensure all activities that are conducted by political parties are done under the COVID-19 guidelines,” Nshindano said.

He said candidates for National Assembly and Councils should pay nomination fees between 1st and 16th May, 2021 to accommodate the provisions of the dissolution of Parliament and Councils.

“The Commission has noted concerns raised by some political parties and independent candidates on the period allocated for payment of nomination fees. The Commission would like to guide the stakeholders as follows; presidential candidates should pay nomination fees between 1st and 9th May, 2021 to allow for pre-processing of supporters scheduled for 10th May, 2021. Candidates for National Assembly and Councils should pay between 1st and 16th May, 2021 to accommodate the provisions of the dissolution of Parliament and Councils which has been set for 14th May, 2021. This will allow sitting members of parliament and councilors wishing to recontest to pay nomination fees after the dissolution of parliament and councils. All aspiring candidates will be required to make deposits in the ECZ bank accounts provided as the Commission will not be handling cash,” he said.

When asked how the commission would reconcile receiving payments when somebody didn’t know if they had been adopted, he said a candidate should be worried if they did not know they were adopted by May 16.

“If you don’t know that you are not adopted by 16th May, that is worrying. Because 16th May that is the day before nomination and we expect that every political party by then would have concluded with their intra party processes. Let me also mention that payment of nomination fees does not entail that you stand on a particular party or not. You are basically paying your nomination fees because you have intentions to stand where you are going to stand. It is only known at the day of you filing in your nomination fees,” he responded.

Meanwhile, the Commission has extended the physical inspection of voters details for five days.

“The Commission has however considered feedback from various stakeholders and has decided to extend the physical inspection exercise for five days. This therefore means the extension will begin tomorrow 3rd April, 2021 and close on Wednesday 7th April 2021. Having said this, let me bring out some important points on the usage of the inspection platforms we have alluded to. We are encouraging registered voters to verify their details using the USSD Code and web-based platform,” said Nshindano.