The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) has called for a more transparent and independent recruitment procedure for the appointment of commissioners for the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ).
President Hakainde Hichilema’s decision to appoint veteran Lusaka lawyer Mwangala Zaloumis and governance commentator McDonald Chipenzi as ECZ Chairperson and commissioner respectively has sparked debate on the manner in which commissioners must be appointed.
Some people have alleged that Ms. Zaloumis and Mr. Chipenzi are too close to the ruling UPND.
PF presidential aspirant Chishimba Kambwili has since advised President Hichilema to reverse the appointments of Ms Zaloumis and Mr Chipenzi as ECZ chairperson and ECZ commissioner respectively.
In a statement, CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Bishop Andrew Mwenda said there is a need to reduce the role of the President in the appointment process of ECZ commissioners.
Bishop Mwenda said there is need for an appointment process which allows for, among other things, a public call for applications for any vacant Commissioner roles with clearly outlined qualifications and selection criteria that entrenches the principles of independence, non partisanship, competence and integrity.
“As part of the Christian Churches Monitoring Group’s (CCMG) commitment to enhancing the transparency, accountability and inclusivity of Zambia’s electoral processes, CCMG calls for enhanced transparency, independence and inclusivity in the appointment of Commissioners, and for urgent constitutional reform to decrease the role of the President in the appointment process. There is need for an appointment process which allows for, among other things, a public call for applications for any vacant Commissioner roles with clearly outlined qualifications and selection criteria that entrenches the principles of independence, non partisanship, competence and integrity, including public interviews and transparent vetting. It is our view that subjecting Commissioners to a transparent recruitment process will not only enhance public confidence in the Electoral Commission of Zambia but also immediately address any concerns from the public on the standing of appointed Commissioners, such as those expressed with the recent appointment of Electoral Commission of Zambia Commissioners,” Bishop Mwenda said.
He said Zambia should emulate Namibia and South Africa where the public is also involved in the appointment of commissioners.
“In Namibia for instance, the Commission consists of five Commissioners appointed by the State President from a list of eight (8) names submitted by a Selection and Interview Committee and approved by the National Assembly. The criteria for requirements for membership of the Commission are determined by Parliament’s Standing Committee on Privileges. Thereafter, public advertisements are placed in the government Gazette and in newspapers. A Selection Committee is set-up to select, interview and recommend eight (8) persons for approval by the National Assembly1 and the interviews with the Section Committee are broadcast on radio/TV,” Bishop Mwenda said.
He said CCMG wants the government to undertake with speed the constitutional and legal reforms necessary to put in place a more transparent and independent recruitment procedure for the appointment of Commissioners.
“It is from this approved list of eight persons that the President must appoint the five Commissioners. South Africa has a similar practice, whereby Commissioners are appointed from a list of not less than eight names submitted by a panel of experts. Therefore, in support of the ECZ’s mission to effectively manage the electoral process to deliver credible elections, and in the interest of advancing the principles of transparency, accountability and inclusivity, CCMG calls on government to undertake with haste the constitutional and legal reforms necessary to put in place a more transparent and independent recruitment procedure for the appointment of Commissioners, such as the ones used in Namibia and in South Africa, and to codify such a procedure in the legal framework,” Bishop Mwenda said.
Meanwhile, Republican Vice President Mutale Nalumango recently in Parliament defended the appointment of Ms. Zaloumis as ECZ Chairperson.
Mrs. Nalumango said President Hakainde Hichilema has not appointed any political party cadres to hold Constitutional office at the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) as alleged by his critics.
During the Vice President’s question time in Parliament, Mrs Nalumango said that President Hichilema has appointed Zambians who are qualified to hold the positions.
She stated that the President is extremely careful when he makes appointments to key positions in the governance of the country.
The Vice President said this in response to Leader of the Opposition in Parliament Brian Mundubile who said that the ECZ and the Judicial Complaints Commission are now run by UPND party cadres.