Political Activist Sishuwa Sishuwa has charged that the Electoral Commission of Zambia has no legal powers to suspend continuous voter registration.
Recently, ECZ Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano stated that the Commission is revising its elections calendar due to the outbreak of Covid-19 noting that the revision might affect the voter registration exercise which might subsequently affect the holding of the August 12 2021 elections.
The Commission subsequently clarified that it has only suspended voter registration but has no legal mandate to postpone the holding of elections as such events are regulated by the constitution.
But Dr Sishuwa stated that the ECZ has the obligation to conduct continuous voter registration as the body has no powers to suspend the exercise.
“Section 7 of the Electoral Process Act No. 35 of 2016 mandates the Commission to conduct continuous voter registration. The Commission has no legal mandate to suspend the exercise unless an election is due, to facilitate publication and inspection of the voters’ register”, Dr Sishuwa said.
He added, “The law says voter registration shall be continuous. The use of the word “shall” means the ECZ is obliged to conduct the exercise, with or without Covid-19, as is the case with requirement to hold elections. The exercise can only stop for purposes of conducting an election.”
He added, “Think of it this way. Assume the threat of Covid-19 does not diminish until August 2021. Does this mean that the Commission will not conduct voter registration before the general election but will proceed to conduct the general election thereby disfranchising many eligible voters?”
Dr Sishuwa said the Act is clear on the need to hold continuous voter registration.
“What ECZ probably wants is to conduct online registration of voters, which is easier to manipulate. Remember they even attempted to start online voter registration in the absence of a statutory provision to support their action. So ECZ is delaying the start of voter registration because they want Parliament to pass the Electoral Process Amendment Bill of 2019, which provides for online registration of voters.”