Ladies and gentlemen
On behalf of the Commission, I warmly welcome you all to this Media briefing and to the ECZ. We have invited you this morning to provide you with an update on a number of processes the ECZ is undertaking in preparation for the 2021 general elections.
Firstly, I wish to mention that in order to meet the deadlines ahead of the 2021 general elections in view of the Covid-19 Pandemic, the Commission has had to revise its election timetable taking into consideration that the election date is enshrined in the Constitution.
The Commission carried out a critical analysis of the activities and the timeframe ahead of 12 th August 2021 when Zambia is scheduled to hold its general elections.
Allow me to also mention and remind ourselves here that the Commission has a constitutional mandate under Article 229 (2) of the Constitution of Zambia (Amendment) Act No.2 of 2016, to carry out the following functions;
- Implement the electoral process;
- Conduct elections and referenda;
- Register voters;
- Settle minor electoral disputes, as prescribed;
- Regulate the conduct of voters and candidates;
- Accredit observers and election agents, as prescribed;
- Delimit electoral boundaries; and
- Perform such other functions as prescribed.
While Covid-19 has posed a challenge not only for elections, but almost every sector of life within and across nations, the Commission would like to ensure that every undertaking is in line with the law, aimed at enhancing the electoral process and delivery of credible elections that meet the aspirations of the Zambian people.
In this regard, it was important for the Commission to appreciate the covid-19 environment, including cross learning from other Electoral Management Bodies (EMBs) within the region and other jurisdictions on possible best practices and how to effectively conduct elections without compromising any of the tenants of a free, fair and credible election.
As a Commission, we are still learning of how to better conduct elections in the new normal environment and remain open to all interested stakeholders to engage with the Commission on issues that may concern them, including clarifications where need be, in a bid to be inclusive and to enhance our electoral process.
May I also take this opportunity to mention that as part of implementation of the Electoral Calendar, the Commission will enhance its engagement with stakeholders (as is the case now with the Media) and has lined up the Political Party Liaison Committee Meeting next week on Tuesday 16 th June 2020, and Civil Society Briefing on Friday 19 th June 2020.
With that said, allow me to provide some key updates as follows:
The Commission commenced the Delimitation exercise in all districts across the country from July, 2019 to December 2019. Following a review of the submissions and recommendations from the stakeholders the Commission compiled a Report with recommendations on the number of Constituencies and submitted it to the executive. The Commission awaits feedback on the next step.
PRINTING OF BALLOT PAPERS
In preparation for the 2021 General Elections, the Commission advertised the tender in September, 2019 in line with the Zambia Public Procurement Act, No. 12 of 2008, Section 26 and Part VI of the Public Procurement Regulations (Statutory Instrument No. 63 of 2011) which requires that procurements of high value be conducted through open bidding.
I wish to inform you that the tender process has since been concluded, the two appeals that were before the Zambia Public Procurement Authority were reviewed and the Commission’s evaluation of the best bidder was upheld. In this regard, the tender for the printing of ballot papers for the 2021 general elections has been awarded to Al Ghurair of Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
Ladies and gentlemen, the Commission planned to undertake the registration of voters in May 2020 for 60 days. But due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Commission has had to adjust the activities in the election timetable. Therefore, the commencement of Voter Registration exercise has been rescheduled to October 2020 and it will be undertaken for 30 days. The period of voter registration has reduced to 30 days from 60 due to tight timelines leading to the Elections Day which is enshrined in the Constitution.
3The Commission has reviewed stakeholder concerns and recommendations about its intention to embark on a new register of voters which targets nine million voters. The Commission undertook a thorough analysis of the situation and different scenarios of preparing the register of voters for the 2021 General Elections.
Arising from this analysis, the Commission has concluded that it would be in the best interest of all the stakeholders and the general public for the Commission to undertake a fresh registration of voters whilst ensuring that the current registered voters are still retained on provision that they present themselves for verification, update and capture of additional information required including biometric capture (10 fingerprints and portrait).
Some of the factors considered included:
- Post 2016 reviews and recommendations from local and international observer missions.
- Audit of the 2016 Register of Voters whose recommendations included a new Register of Voters for 2021 General Elections.
- The removal of deceased voters that may not have been declared to the Commission or traced with the available systems for removing them
- Implementation of the 2019 delimitation recommendations for new electoral boundaries (Constituencies, Wards, and Polling Districts including relocation and renaming of Polling Stations)
- Improved biometric processing (removal of duplicate records, accurate and faster identification)
- Accurate Election Planning and Logistics
- Realistic Voter Turnout statistics
- Capture an additional estimated 4 million new eligible voters since 2016
- Enhance Register Integrity and increase stakeholder confidence and credibility of the process and the outcome of the 2021 General Elections.
The Voter Registration exercise will include mobile as well as online voter registration. In this regard, every eligible voter will have to register/verify their details under the new register for the 2021 general elections. As was earlier communicated any by-election that occurs from the time the new registration process commences to a period before the 2021 general elections will be conducted under the current register of voters.
PREPAREDNESS FOR THE 2021 GENERAL ELECTIONS
Allow me to also briefly share with you some of the aspects of the electoral process that the Commission is undertaking in preparation for 2021 General elections.
Procurements of Voter registration and Election materials have reached an advanced stage. The Commission wants to ensure that both security and non-security materials are delivered on time to avert late/delayed delivery of materials to polling stations. Most procurements are currently at contract stage and clearance from the Attorney and Accountant General’s Offices.
The biggest risk the Commission faces is financing which has been adversely impacted as a result of reduced economic activities due to Covid-19 and reduce revenue generation capacity by the treasury. The Commission has continued to engage with the Treasury for funding for the Voter Registration and the 2021 general elections to ensure that we meet our set timelines and we are optimistic this will be attained.
The Commission remains resolute towards shortening the time within which Elections Results are announced and declared. As a reminder from our previous briefing, some of the steps undertaken include;
- Converting streams into polling stations. This will avoid aggregation of the election results at stream level and once each stream is treated as a polling station, the Commission will announce the results for the various types of elections without having to aggregate all the streams into the polling station and then announce the results.
- Delimitation – the delimitation will lead to the creation of new wards, and polling stations to decongest the existing ones.
- Satellite devices will be deployed in areas where there is no GSM
network to enhance the transmission of the results
- Streamlining the process of results verification at the Election Results Centre to enhance efficiency.
- Enhanced Voter Statistics – Provision of disaggregated voter turnout statistics at polling stations to enhance reporting of election results and addressing stakeholder requests.
Following the case of Godfrey Malembeka (Prisons Care and Counselling Association – PRISCA) Vs Attorney General and ECZ in which the court held that prisoners’ right to vote should be upheld. This entailed that the Commission in fulfilling the ruling was required to undertake Prisoners Voting for 2021 general elections.
The Commission has made steady progress towards finalization of the guidelines to facilitate for Prison Voting and are expected to conclude this by September 2020 in time for the Voter registration exercise. The next steps will involve consultations with key stakeholders especially Political Parties and non-state actors. However, I should mention that this exercise has been impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic as some of the activities could not be undertaken as planned.
CODE OF CONDUCT ENFORCEMENT REGULATIONS
The Commission has made progress in reviewing the Code of Conduct enforcement regulations to allow it to respond swiftly to acts in breach of the electoral code of conduct. In this regard, the Commission will determine urgent cases that come before it without the cases being brought before the Conflict Management Committee. The revised Code of conduct enforcement regulations will come into effect after being gazetted. We, therefore, call on political parties to strictly adhere to the provisions of the Electoral Code of conduct to avoid disqualification and enhance the the credibility of the elections and countries’ democratic practices.
THE THREE (3) LOCAL GOVERNMENT WARDS
Ladies and gentlemen as you may be aware the Commission recently conducted three (3) local government ward by-elections, two (2) in Mongu, and one (1) in Chilubi which was held on 9th June 2020.
I am pleased to inform you that the nominations and the polls were successfully held in the Local Government by-elections in the Nakato and Imalyo Wards of Mongu Town Council in Western Province and the Bulilo Ward of Chilubi Town Council in Northern Province. We wish to commend all the political parties that participated in the just-ended local government by-elections for the peaceful campaigns. The parties that participated were the Movement for Change and Equity (M4CE), National Restoration Party (NAREP), Patriotic Front (PF), and the United Party for National Development (UPND).
In addition to this, we have 11 Local Government by-elections scheduled for July 2020.
In conclusion, I wish to thank the media for the role you are playing in our electoral process.
With these few words, I thank you and God bless you all.