ZAMBIA needs a longer period for voter registration, more electoral manpower and better facilities, Margaret Pikiti, Socialist Party parliamentary candidate for the Malole constituency, says.
Speaking on Diamond TV recently, Pikiti called upon the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to make voter registration more accessible, especially in rural areas.
“Looking at the situation, I think the time [for registration] is inadequate. I don’t know how many people are registered to date considering the long queues and the time it is taking,” she said.
“I think they need more manpower to speed up the registration. They should also think of extending the period for registration.”
She stressed though that more manpower was the priority because extending hours would only work in certain areas.
“I have travelled far and wide in Malole, Northern Province. It is very rural. People can’t start walking home in the dark. People in Lusaka can drive to go home with extended hours, but it will be very difficult for people in rural areas to do the same. Definitely, much more manpower is needed.
“I have been in Lusaka for the last few days and passed through a few centres and seen the queues. Just on Sunday, I went with my family to try to register. People coming out said they had been there for seven hours and were only leaving at about 16:00 hours. We entered the place and the queue was still very long.
“It’s quite disheartening. There was only one ECZ lady official attending to the people, registering with one laptop despite a very long queue. The laptops don’t cost much, the price of one car can fund the whole country.
“We could have at least three or more people taking the details but actually, there is just one person, and people have to wait for hours,” she said.
But she urged Zambians not to lose heart despite the challenges.
“While this might discourage people, I urge them not to be discouraged because our country is not going on the right path. We need to be able to have a say over what happens to our families, children, ourselves, and the generations to come. We need to build justice, equity and peace and improve people’s lives.”
Pikiti also shared her experience of the difficulties people face in Malole constituency.
“The situation there is a bit different,” she said. “In Lusaka, people might be able to catch a bus to line up to register. I don’t know how people in Malole manage to walk long distances and then sit in queues for many hours. It is a challenge to even get food and water, and then they have to walk long distances home again.
Many people don’t have bicycles. In Malole, people walk to the clinic for treatment. They walk miles, literally miles.”
She said there was a need for people to empathise with the plight of rural communities and take their needs into consideration.
“If they have to walk long distances to go and register, [the process] needs to be faster. What I have seen so far in Lusaka is disheartening because I am now concerned about my constituency.”
She said power was also a problem in Malole. “There is no electricity so the ECZ officers are probably having to use batteries with their laptops.”
Pikiti said the rural difficulties and poverty of Malole were a part of the reason why she had decided to stand for parliament for the Socialist Party.
“I realised that the Socialist Party’s manifesto and plans were going to benefit the people of Malole. I see the struggles of the people. I see the struggles in every area; food, health, education, and just managing day-to-day lives.
“When I read the Socialist Party’s manifesto I had the conviction that it can really benefit the people of Malole because the focus of the party is to work with the poor and improve their lives,” she said.