TRANSPARENCY International Zambia (TI-Z) has disagreed with the European Union Observation Mission’s recommendation to remove the Grade 12 certificate requirement, arguing that it was introduced to ensure some level of competence and literacy in elected officials.
And TI-Z has reminded the UPND of their promise to repeal the Public Order Act, stating that its application has been effectively an assault on some of the key tenets of democracy.
In a statement, Friday, TI-Z executive director Maurice Nyambe stated that his organisation supported and agreed with the many observations made by the Mission, with one major exception.
“Transparency International Zambia (TI-Z) commends the European Union Observation Mission, led by Chief Observer Maria Arena, for generating what is largely an accurate report on the 2021 General Elections. TI-Z agrees with the many observations made by the Mission, and supports the vast majority of the recommendations, with one major exception. The vast majority of the observations the report highlights are observations that TI-Z made in the context of our 2021 elections monitoring project that ran from April 2021 until the end of the election period,” Nyambe said.
“The EU Mission also recommended the revision of candidacy requirements to enhance the right and the opportunity to stand by ensuring registration fees do not deter participation and are refundable, and removing educational requirements for the right to stand. Although we understand the EU Mission’s broad rationale for the latter part of this recommendation, our considered view is that the Grade 12 certificate requirement was introduced to ensure some level of competence and literacy in elected officials.”
Nyambe argued that the need to have a minimum educational requirement for higher political office was paramount and that the consideration should in fact be to raise the minimum threshold, rather than doing away with it.
“TI-Z therefore disagrees with the EU Mission’s recommendation to remove educational requirements especially for presidential and parliamentary candidates. These political offices demand considerable competencies since Members of Parliament, for example, are required to debate and preside over complex issues such as the budget and audit reports, and to make legislation that will affect different aspects of Zambian society. The need to have a minimum educational requirement is therefore paramount, and for higher political office, the consideration should in fact be to raise the minimum threshold rather than do away with it,” he stated.
“The recommendation may however be relevant for local government candidates since many political parties found it challenging to find candidates with Grade 12 certificates during their adoption processes.”
And Nyambe called on the UPND administration to provide a clear roadmap for repealing the Public Order Act and replacing it with a law that would be more reflective of the current dynamics.
“The EU report notes, among other things, “The arbitrary application of COVID-19 campaign regulations and the Public Order Act (POA) provisions hindered opposition candidates from competing under equal conditions and amplified widespread perceptions of an unlevel playing field in the campaign. Therefore, there is need to repeal the Public Order Act and ensure in law adherence to regional and international standards for freedom of assembly, movement and expression.” In agreeing with this observation and recommendation, TI-Z reminds the ruling UPND of their promise to repeal this ancient and retrogressive piece of legislation, much of whose application has been effectively an assault on some of the key tenets of democracy,” he stated.
“We therefore call on the UPND administration to provide a clear roadmap for repealing the Public Order Act and replacing it with a law that will be more reflective of the current dynamics in promoting effective citizen participation in political and other discourse, whilst maintaining public order.”
Nyambe stated that his organisation supports the Mission’s recommendation on the need for a formalized cooperation or signed agreement for closer collaboration among ECZ, civil society and the media.
“The EU report also noted that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) exhibited inadequate communication and a lack of genuine stakeholder consultations, which enhanced perceptions of non-transparency and partiality in ECZ’s decisions and actions. As may be recalled, during the elections period, TI-Z along with other stakeholders, called on the ECZ to improve its communication and stakeholder consultation on issues such as voter registration, accreditation of monitors, and printing of ballot papers, among others. The Commission was however non-responsive to the many calls for wider consultation and provided limited information to key stakeholders. TI-Z therefore supports the Mission’s recommendation on the need for a formalized cooperation or signed agreement for closer collaboration among the ECZ, civil society and the media,” he stated.
Nyambe stated that the conduct of credible elections required a high degree of openness and collaboration with different stakeholders.
He further agreed that there was need to enact a law on campaign financing, including reporting requirements for political parties.
“The conduct of credible elections, while constitutionally the sole preserve of the ECZ, requires a high degree of openness and collaboration with different stakeholders, and we urge the Commission to give this recommendation the serious consideration it deserves. Through our Political Integrity Project, we have been advocating for the enactment of legislation aimed at regulating political party financing and campaign spending. In the lead up to the 2021 elections, we released survey results on campaign spending on billboard advertisement as well as television and radio advertisement,” stated Nyambe.
“It was indeed clear that the traditional and online media campaign was highly monetised, with the then ruling Patriotic Front monopolising prime-time slots on state and private media. TI-Z is therefore in agreement with the EU Mission on the need to enact a law on campaign financing, including reporting requirements for political parties. The EU Mission also recommended for the enactment of a law on political parties stipulating registration requirements and guaranteeing internal party democracy, inclusivity, transparency and accountability, with adequate institutional oversight. This recommendation should be advanced through on-going advocacy work towards the process of enacting the Political Parties Bill into law.”