THE Southern African Institute for Policy and Research (SAIPAR) with support from the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA) has launched the Support to the Electoral Dispute Resolution Oversight and Capacity Building Zambia (SEDROBZ) project.

The objective of the project is to contribute towards increased knowledge on accessing election dispute resolution in Zambia and promote a transparent electoral process in 2021 elections in Zambia.

During the launch, Thursday, SAIPAR Executive Director Professor Manenga Ndulo said the initiative would strengthen Zambia’s key instruments of the rule of law while providing timely electoral justice.

Prof Ndulo said the project would be implemented from June 1, 2021 to May 31, 2022.

“The project is a phenomenal contribution in the efforts towards strengthening Zambia’s key instruments of the rule of law and guaranteeing compliance with international and regional principles for holding free and credible elections that provide timely electoral justice as a key element in maintaining credibility of elections. This is a resource that provides electoral stakeholders, especially political parties, to access the election dispute resolution mechanisms in the country. I can highlight that the importance of the project contributes to electoral disputes and upholds electoral rights. Accessible electoral dispute mechanisms will increase respect for the rule of law and minimize the number of electoral disputes brought for resolution. Essentially, this will contribute to building confidence in institutions mandated to administer electoral processes and resolving electoral disputes. The project will provide a high caliber of technical experts during the 12 months of project implementation, starting from 1st June 2021 until 31st May 2022,” Prof Ndulo said.

He said through this project, political parties would access technical assistance when seeking to address electoral disputes.

“The project will assess the electoral dispute mechanisms in Zambia, track electoral dispute cases during elections, build capacity of political parties on dispute settlement and provide a one stop advisory framework for political parties. This project is for all political parties. By the end of the project, there will be transfer of knowledge and experience in managing electoral disputes. People should not look at electoral disputes in a negative way. Settling electoral disputes is positive in the sense that it avoids violence. It is a safety channel so that someone goes to court and resolves electoral issues. The court decides and everyone gets satisfied. If you do not have a safety channel, then there is a problem. It has been said that violence is the voice of the unheard. So you need to create safety channels and this is what this project aims to do,” said Prof Ndulo.

Meanwhile, SEDROBZ lead consultant Dr O’Brien Kaaba said the increased number of election petitions dismissed by the courts showed a lack of capacity to identify technical evidence by political parties.

“The pattern emerging from these petitions is that they are always, with exception of a few, dismissed for lack of evidence or on procedural grounds. Petitions are often half baked, not supported by evidence of malfeasance and in some cases not properly brought before the courts. This points to the inability of political parties and their legal teams to put in place robust oversight mechanisms of the electoral process that assists in the collection of evidence to prove electoral malfeasance. More disturbing, it points to the inability of political parties to provide competent court challenges when provided with the opportunity to do so,” said Dr Kaaba.

“This raises questions on the capacity of political parties to establish and manage the operational structures required to allow for the timely codification, transmission, treatment and analysis of all information collected by their agents in the field to support election petitions. It also points to poorly structured design of the training of legal officers in the political parties on how to file evidence-based petitions. Political parties lack capacity to launch effective petitions and technical support to do so.”