By Sean Tembo
1. As Patriots for Economic Progress (PeP) we wish to put it on record that we have always appreciated and supported the work being done by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) in its preparations for this year’s general elections. However, we are now disappointed with the procedures that the Commission has put in place for submission of presidential candidate supporters who are required to physically present themselves at a provincial ECZ office.
2. As Patriots for Economic Progress, we believe that the reason that has been advanced by ECZ that they need these supporters to physically travel to an ECZ office so that they can obtain biometric parameters from them to confirm that they are genuine voters, does not hold water because ECZ already collected biometric features from all voters during the voter registration process and there is no reason for duplicating this exercises all over again.
3. As Patriots for Economic Progress, our proposal is that ECZ should allow presidential candidates to submit a list of the 100 supporters from each province using an ECZ approved template which would capture all essential details such as full names, physical address, NRC and Voters Cards numbers, signatures, telephone numbers etcetera. ECZ would then easily confirm whether the supporters on the list are genuine registered voters by cross-referencing to their database of registered voters.
4. As Patriots for Economic Progress, our view is that the requirement for presidential candidate supporters to each physically travel to an ECZ office in each province is problematic in several ways. Firstly, transporting 100 people in each province will require the hiring of at least two big buses, which amounts to 20 buses across the country. The cost of hiring a single big bus per day is not less than K10,000, which totals K200,000 for the entire 10 provinces. These 1,000 supporters will also need to be provided with food and other refreshments while they are waiting to be served at the provincial ECZ office, and if we peg the cost per person at K150, this totals K150,000. If we add other incidentals, the total cost easily reaches K500,000. Although this amount might appear small for larger parties such as PF and UPND, it is a huge unnecessary cost for us. We could use this money for other mobilization activities.
5. Secondly, the ECZ requirement to physically transport 1,000 presidential candidate supporters to various provincial ECZ offices across the country presents a significant health risk to our members in this COVID-19 era as it exposes our people to infection and possible death. The Commission is supposed to be promoting methods of doing things which do not abrogate but comply with COVID-19 guidelines. We cannot have a situation whereby one arm of the Government is busy fighting COVID-19 while another arm of the same Government is busy promoting the spread of COVID-19.
6. Thirdly, given the fact that our supporters will be required to be at a specific provincial ECZ office on a specific date and at a specific time, it presents a huge security risk as they can easily be waylaid by our political opponents and prevented from reaching the ECZ office so that our presidential nomination fails.
7. All the above problems can be avoided if the Electoral Commission of Zambia removes this artificial impediment which has the overall effect of undermining the participation of smaller political parties in this year’s general elections. As Patriots for Economic Progress, we have since written to the Commission requesting that they should allow presidential candidates to submit lists of their supporters per province instead of demanding that such supporters physically present themselves at a provincial ECZ office. We are confident that the Commission will favorably consider our request.