Following the Coronavirus outbreak, that has affected the day to day life of citizens, the electoral Commission of Zambia has announced it is reviewing the Roadmap for Elections, and will soon advise Stakeholders and the general public the commencement date for all the electoral processes leading up to the 2021 General Elections.
The Commission says it is monitoring events closely as the pandemic unfolds and is, therefore, re-aligning its Elections Calendar.
Commission Public Relations Manager Margaret Chimanse says as a consequence, the Voter Registration Exercise that was scheduled to commence in May will commence on a date to be advised.
Mrs Chimanse, however, said that despite the outbreak of COVID-19 the Commission will still conduct the Polls for three Local Government By-elections in Nakato and Imalyo Wards of Mongu Town Council in Western Province, and Bulilo Ward of Chilubi Town Council in Northern Province.
She said unlike the Voter Registration Exercise which has been postponed, the three ward by-elections shall be conducted as prescribed by Article 57 (1) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No. 2 of 2016, which provides that “where a vacancy occurs in the office of a Member of Parliament, Mayor, Council Chairperson or Councilor, a by-election shall be held within 90 days of the occurrence of the vacancy..
Mrs Chimanse said in view of this, the Commission will institute administrative measures to guide the conduct of all by-elections to prevent the transmission of Covid-19.
She said measures put in place among others to comply with the Ministry of Health guidelines include adherence to the Public Health Statutory Instrument No. 22 of 2020 which outlines the guidelines and procedures on how to prevent, control and manage the COVID-19.
Mrs Chimanse said other measures include the observance of all Public health procedures and allowing Health Personnel into their buildings such as meeting venues, Nomination Centres, Polling Stations and Totaling Centre, provision of sanitary materials such as hand sanitizers, gloves, masks, soap and water to all polling staff and other officers at polling stations and implementing speedy and efficient voting procedures to enable voters’ walk-in and leave the Polling Stations without delay.
She added that the ECZ will further ensure provision of additional Officers/Ushers, including Health Personnel at meeting venues, Nomination Centres, Polling Stations and Totaling Centre to ensure that people are sanitized and observe hygiene standards in a public place or gathering. This is in addition to ensuring adherence to social distancing guidelines of keeping at least one-meter spacing on the queues for voting on Poll day.
Further, Mrs Chimanse said the Commission is encouraging Voters to leave their Children/babies at home and avoiding carrying them to the meeting venues, Nomination Centre, Polling Stations and Totaling Centre and restricting the number of people attending ECZ Stakeholder-meetings as well as the frequency of the meetings to be held in the District with the By-election.
On other stakeholders, Mrs Chimanse said political Parties for instance are discouraged from holding public rallies to avoid the contraction of COVID-19 but are encouraged to use appropriate campaign strategies such as mobile Public Address System, distribution of flyers and other political party materials with minimal or no contact with a crowd.
She said parties should desist from ferrying cadres from one district/ward to the other for campaigns in Districts where by- elections are taking place and are encouraged to observe all the Health guidelines and procedures outlined by the Ministry of Health.
Mrs Chimanse has reiterated that the Commission will work very closely with the Ministry of Health during the by-elections and all Stakeholders participating in the Polls should abide by the Ministry of Health guidelines on the prevention of the spread of the COVID-19.