GEARS Executive Director, MacDonald Chipenzi has called on Zambia to harmonize section 7 and 12 of the Electoral Process Act if the nation is to have uninterrupted voter registration.
Recently, the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) announced the postponement of the continuous voter registration among other prominent reasons were due to the forthcoming by-elections in Luwingu, Monze and Mongu.
Mr. Chipenzi said there is need to seriously reflect on how section 12 on the suspension of voter registration of the Electoral Process Act sits with the overall goal of section 7 on continuous voter registration of the same Act.
The GEARS Executive Director said the fact that ECZ has wholesomely suspended voter registration exercise in all the 10 districts it wished to start with perhaps and purposively using the provisions of section 12, evidence enough to revisit and harmonise the cited provisions.
Mr. Chipenzi said this today in a Press statement made available to the Zambia News and information Services in Chikankata District in Southern Province.
“In this regard, the ECZ must also learn to anchor its decisions on law when communicating its position to the public to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings and also help informed Debates,” Mr. said.
He said in the recent past sets of communication to the public among them suspension of the voter registration, ECZ never anchored its decision on any law which is extremely sad.
Mr. Chipenzi noted that this is raising questions as to what law ECZ was using to drag on the start of the continuous voter registration from April to June across the country.
“Scanning through the provisions of the law governing elections, it may be guessed that ECZ invoked section 12 (1) which talks about the suspension of the voter registration for purposes of holding an election,” Mr. Chipenzi stated.
Mr. Chipenzi noted that, nonetheless, Section 12(2), talks about the suspension of voter registration in district where the by-election is being held, in this case, Mongu, Monze and Luwingu districts.
“Succinctly put, Section 12(1) states that the Commission may suspend the registration of voters whenever an election is due for the purposes of the conduct of the election, Mr. Chipenzi noted.
He said subsection 2 further stating that the Commission shall, where it prescribes the polling day for a by-election, immediately suspend the registration of voters in the district in which the by-election is to take place until the by-election is concluded.
“The question which remains is, what would happen if the country, again, will have another set of by-elections by June and the trend continues up to 2026?”, he questioned.
Mr. Chipenzi wondered whether the ECZ will continue to suspend and drag on the start of the voter registration exercise on continuous basis based on the by-elections reasons.
“It is our recommendation that section 12 on suspension of voter registration and section 7 on continuous voter registration be harmonized and mechanisms be put in place for voter registration not be curtailed due to the holding of the by-elections,” Mr. Chipenzi said.
He said that if the status remains the same, Zambia, in general, and ECZ, in particular, will never embark on any continuous voter registration exercise anytime soon.