Editor's Comment

Don’t slow down

PRESIDENT Edgar Lungu has urged stakeholders to continue encouraging people to go and register as voters. The head of State does not think calling for the extension of the exercise at this stage is helpful in getting people to register.
The President has a valid point. He understands well how people’s minds operate. Announcing an extension now may just send more voters into a relaxed mode, thinking they have more time.
We know that even now some people are unmoved to register because they feel there is still time. These are the kinds that wait for the last minute to clog the registration centres, thereby making work for Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) officers more difficult.
It is acknowledged that the 1.1 million voters captured in the first week against the targeted 9 million at the end of the whole exercise indicated a slow-paced voter registration exercise, but ECZ has since upped its activities.
Given the situation, we expect all stakeholders to speak the same language, and that is to encourage voters to go and register within the 30 days window.
While the process was marred by some shortcomings at the beginning, ECZ has been working round the clock to ensure that the process is as efficient as possible. For instance, in response to the concerns raised by voters on the slow-paced exercise, ECZ has beefed up manpower in the registration centres.
The commission has also extended operation hours for registration centres situated in densely populated areas. This is to allow more people to register. To shorten the process, the commission has also provided for online pre-registration.
However, despite these efforts by ECZ, checks by the Sunday Mail over the weekend in some registration centres indicated low numbers of people. In some centres there were times when ECZ officials had to wait for an hour or two for people to go and register.
This shows that there is still need for all stakeholders to encourage more people to go and register.
It is important to sensitise the public on the importance of the exercise. It is obvious some people do not understand the importance of their participation in the electoral process. They need to be made aware that their voice needs to count in the governance of the country and the most effective way to make it count is through the right to vote.
Those who chose not to register and, subsequently, not to vote, should understand that they are forfeiting their power to decide on how this country should be governed and who governs it.
For now all stakeholders should get busy to encourage more people to register. Needless to say, this role should not only be left to political stakeholders. Everybody must be involved.
The Church should use its platform to encourage members to register. The Church being an integral part of our society must ensure that its voice is heard. This can only happen if more Christians turn out in numbers to register. The clergy should be actively involved in ensuring that all their members who are eligible register.
The corporate world will also do well to grant their employees time to go and register. Those whose work schedules are tight can still be encouraged to register after work hours.
Families should be each other’s keeper. Parents and guardians should take an interest and make sure all eligible voters in their households register.
With the right attitude, the targeted nine million registered voters can be attained within 30 days.
ECZ should also continue working to ensure that all bottlenecks are eliminated from the process. This will encourage more people to come on board.
For instance, some people got discouraged by reports that the process is taking too long. ECZ must work at countering those reports by ensuring that the people being attended to going forward spread positive news through their experience of the process. Word of mouth is one marketing tool that can either work for or work against the registration process.
ECZ should therefore ensure that those who have registered speak positively of the process. This is the only way to encourage more people.
For now let all stakeholders work towards one goal of ensuring that nine million voters are captured within the 30-day period, which runs from November 9 to December 12.
If by December 12 or close to this date it is crystal clear that it is impossible for ECZ to capture the targeted figure, then the talk of an extension can justifiably be tabled. Let’s cross the bridge when we reach there. But for now, let’s get every eligible voter to the registration centres.

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