Editor's Comment

It’s uphill but surmountable

With only 1.1 million citizens registering as voters after one week, stakeholders must understandably be concerned that the target of nine million is farfetched.
Such concern is genuine considering that the balance of 7.9 million citizens has to be reached in three weeks. This means an average of 2.6 million people registering each week, forthwith.
There is, however, a fair measure of hope that this target can still be reached.
As the Vice-President, Inonge Wina, said in Parliament yesterday, most of the challenges that the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) faced in the first week have been resolved.
Mrs Wina, in her statement to the House, outlined measures ECZ has implemented to expedite the process and reach the target of nine million.
The hope of achieving this target hinges on measures such as increasing service points, increasing operating hours and the number of staff attending to applicants.
Having points open for attending to people around the clock is perhaps one of the smartest decisions.  This will help those that are able to get to these centres at odd or wee hours of the day obtain the cards faster.
Of course not everyone is able to go to these centres late in the night but this does still help to decongest the day-time activities.
Indications on the ground are that there is a notable improvement in service delivery, but there are still some citizens who reckon that the process could still be faster.
ECZ has increased the number of equipment being used and this, too, has had a significant notable improvement on the pace at which people are being served.
It is good, too, that Ubuntu in Zambians is manifesting in special consideration being given to the aged, the sick and differently abled.
There are, however, concerns by some wheelchair-bound citizens who cannot ascend steps to the registration rooms.  This is a problem arising from buildings being built without due consideration for the differently abled people.
It is now a requirement that ramps are built at entrances of buildings to facilitate entry by those that use wheelchairs or those that have difficulty in climbing steps.
But since many buildings still do not have ramps, ECZ should seriously find ways of getting these people into these centres.  Temporary, mobile ramps can be erected.  No-one should feel or be treated as an unequal or as a second-grade citizen.
As the ECZ steps up its efforts to register more people, it is important that citizens do not get discouraged by the challenges currently being faced. They must remain resolute because this is a once-in-a-long-while sacrifice.
Some stakeholders, particularly political parties, are playing their role fairly well.  They are ensuring that their members, especially those in leadership positions, lead by example by registering.
The overall challenge, however, remains on the shoulders of ECZ, which must live up to the expectations of all stakeholders by being fair and impartial.
This calls for ECZ to be more inspiring in the manner it handles the election process.  It is also expected that ECZ will handle the electoral process in a manner that eliminates any misgivings among the stakeholders.
Other misgivings, other than the slow pace of registration, include the concern or allegation of multiple registrations by an individual.
For an institution that is ICT-wise, ECZ should be able to detect such entries at this stage.  The question is:  how and when will the screening of the nine million registered citizens be done?
The commission also needs to address the concern raised by some stakeholders over the distribution of voter registration kits.
Some stakeholders are concerned that some areas, particularly Southern Province, have allegedly received more kits than Lusaka, which has a much higher population.
ECZ says, however, that the distribution of kits was equitable. While we appreciate this feedback, a breakdown of this distribution will help dispel speculation and reassure citizens that this is a transparent and fair process.
It is also disappointing that the quality of the voter’s card does not reflect the modern era we are in.
Many contend that it cannot last for three months even under the best care.  Food for thought for ECZ.
For now, the commission needs support from all stakeholders in the quest to register close to eight million Zambians in three weeks.

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