Opinion

SORT OUT GLITCHES

THE Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) must listen to concerns raised by the public and improve on the hitches being faced in the ongoing voters’ registration exercise.
The exercise, though in its early days does not give confidence to the public that the ECZ would meet its tally of capturing the projected nine million voters.
The ECZ expects to reach this target between November 9-December 12.
It is obvious that the ECZ has been overwhelmed and does not have the manpower to undertake this massive important exercise as it has been noted.
Each registration centre is being manned by one ECZ official who must not only jot down the voter’s details but must take pictures, print and laminate the voter’s cards.
This cannot work in populated urban areas judging from what has been reported in Lusaka and some towns on the Copperbelt.
This tedious process is what has worried most people because it is taking a minimum of 10-15
minutes to attend to one person.
With this scenario, people are being made to spend hours on end in the queues to acquire the voter’s card.
What is making them endure the ordeal is obviously their patriotism and determination to ensure that they are registered to vote, thus giving them that voice and power to determine their destiny.
But the ECZ must not take the people’s patience for granted. It must not lead to some people becoming frustrated with the system and opting to stay away altogether.
The ongoing voters’ registration exercise is an important part of the country’s democratic dispensation.
It is an exercise done periodically by the ECZ to ensure that it captures all citizens eligible to vote, especially those coming of age – turning 18.
We would have expected the ECZ to have prepared thoroughly for the exercise and ensure that it has enough human resource at each registration centre.
Having more officers would ensure fast registration of would-be voters and increased turnover at the end of the day.
But with the slow pace at which the registration is being done, the ECZ might only capture a small fraction of eligible voters, thus disenfranchising thousands.
The ECZ needs to breathe new life into the voters’ registration exercise by improving its operations.
As the People’s Alliance for Change has noted, what is currently characterising the registration is exactly what stakeholders warned the ECZ about.
PAC secretary general Gerald Mulawo says stakeholders warned ECZ about the 30-day registration period.
Mr. Mulawo says long queues have continued characterising the ongoing mobile voter registration with most residents describing the process as chaotic.
The ECZ ought to realise that the country’s democracy can only thrive when the majority of citizens become registered voters and actually
participate and vote on polling day.
It should therefore ensure that it creates a conducive atmosphere, free of hitches for one to easily walk into a registration centre and go through the formalities without a fuss.
If it is a question of poor funding that makes it hard for the ECZ to hire enough staff for the registration exercise, it should bring this to the attention of the relevant authorities.
The ECZ must not allow its detractors to say “we told you so” but must do a good job and carry out the voters’ registration programme minus
administrative hitches.

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