GEARS Initiative Zambia says it is taken aback, dismayed by and disagrees with the position taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop organisations and individuals interested in monitoring the issuance of National Registration Cards in Zambia to do so.
Organisation Executive Director McDonald Chipenzi says organisations or citizens do not need accreditation to monitor or conduct sensitisation programmes on the issuance of NRCs going on around the country as this is their civic duty, right and responsibility.
Mr Chipenzi says instead, the Ministry should have been happy and encouraging those organisations, institutions and individuals intending to do so at their own cost to proceed to enhance credibility, transparency and accountability in the process.
He says demanding for accreditation to monitor the execrise is courting suspicions and is asking stakeholders not to also participate in the community awareness raising on the need for those eligible to turn out in numbers to obtain the NRCs since these stakeholders will not be accredited.
Mr Chipenzi has reminded the Ministry that citizens have a constitutional right, duty and responsibility to hold any public institutions including the Ministry of Home Affairs accountable.
“This is meant to foster high-level transparency and accountability in the process since it is part of public service delivery chain system”, he said.
Mr Chipenzi says this issuance of NRCs exercise is not an ordinary exercise but one done for the purpose of facilitating for the registration of voters for the 2021 Elections.
He said there is no need for any organisation to be accredited to monitor any public service delivery process and therefore no point for the Ministry to stop anyone from monitoring the exercise.
“In any case, the political parties, both the ruling and opposition, are key stakeholders and beneficiaries to this exercise, especially that, this time, NRC issuance exercise is meant to accord citizens especially the youths to register as voters”, he added.
Mr Chipenzi says he finds such utterance and directive to stop interested organisations to monitor the exercise not only surprising, scary but against the established norm and past practices.
“This is not the first time when such an exercise has happened ahead of a major election and in all past exercises, stakeholders were allowed to monitor the exercise at their own cost. What is so special with this year’s exercise for the Ministry to attempt to stop stakeholders from monitoring the exercise? What does it want to do with exercise? Weren’t internal validation mechanisms there in the past when stakeholders were allowed to monitor the exercise?”, he said.
Mr Chipenzi has called on the Ministry to seriously reflect on its statement before it jeopardizes the good intention of the exercise and stakeholders cooperation in the process.
He said with persistent allegations of the exercise having the potential to capture foreigners especially in border areas, stopping stakeholders from monitoring the exercise will heighten the allegations against the Ministry of trying to issue such documents to foreigners.
Mr Chipenzi however said that GEARS Initiative appreciates the decision by the Ministry to allow those without birth certificates and underfive cards to participate in this exercise as long as they prove that they are eligible.
He said his Organisation further agrees with the Ministry that those who want to oversee the exercise should not use intimidation or harass the issuing officers as that is interfering with the process but instead bring any observable inadequacies to relevant authorities.