THE Jesuit Centre for Theological Reflection (JCTR) appreciates the ongoing voter registration exercise being conducted by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) across the country.
The Centre however would like to register its concern over the slow pace at which the exercise is being conducted if the nine million voters target is to be achieved. In over 10 days a paltry 1, 000, 000 people have registered as voters meaning that on the balance of scale, only 2, 000, 000 will be captured in the remaining 20 or so days.
The slow pace of the exercise, among other issues as established by JCTR, and from most parts of the country include the constant breakdowns of the registration kits, manpower shortage as most registration centres are being manned by only one person and slowness of the connectivity of the kits to the internet especially in rural areas.
In Kalumbila, apart from the shortage of manpower, at some registration centres the delays are caused because the machines take long to respond to the fingerprint process. People with fingers that are hard or cracked as a result of the jobs they do are having difficulties to have their fingerprints taken and this sometimes takes over three hours to verify.
Another complaint is that the material being used for the new voters’ card is too light compared to previous ones.
Some polling districts are too vast and densely populated. Hence it’s not possible to register everyone within the allocated period.
As JCTR, we feel these challenges can easily be dealt with otherwise many people will not be able to register due to the long queues and the time limitation. As it is, about 19 days are remaining before the exercise comes to an end. In Southern province, for example, a number of people would rather go and queue up for farming inputs under the farmer input support programme (FISP) than stand in a long queue for voter registration all day and end up going home without the voters’ card.
It is now clear that the majority of people would rather go to carry out their daily chores for economic survival as opposed to staying on the voter registration queue for the whole day.
All in all, the ECZ target of capturing nine million registered voters may not be viable under the circumstances unless the ECZ does the following:
- ECZ should ensure adequate manpower is deployed to all registration centres to ensure more people are captured.
- The ECZ should revisit the issue of equipment (kits) so that even where more staff is deployed, this must be in line with the number of kits that are being used. More staff but without kits might not be the best option of increasing staff.
- ECZ should mobilise more registration kits so that more registration officers can be engaged to ensure more people are captured in one day.
- The ECZ should, as a matter of importance, consider extending the voter registration period by a minimum of two weeks to cover up for the lost time due to breakdowns of the testing kits at registration centres.
JCTR fears that if the voter registration exercise is not done properly, ECZ risks disfranchising the majority of the people that would like to vote in next year’s elections.