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President Lungu addresses Southern Province chiefs who paid a courtesy call on him at State House yesterday. PICTURE: SALIM HENRY/STATE HOUSE.

Low voter turnout worries President

PRESIDENT Lungu says Government is concerned about the low voter turnout experienced in recent elections and is considering whether or not to make a law to compel citizens to vote.
And President Lungu says Government is considering attaching the Rural Roads Unit (RRU) to the Zambia National Service (ZNS) to make it more effective.
Meanwhile, President Lungu has reiterated that Government does not have resources to hold a national referendum but will ensure that the new constitution is delivered in accordance with the will of the people.
Speaking when he met chiefs from Southern Province at State House yesterday, President Lungu said Government is thinking through whether to make a law to compel people to vote.
“We are all affected and need to take this seriously,” he said.
He was responding to Chief Sinazongwe, who expressed concern over the low voter turnout in recent elections.
Mr Lungu said currently, there is no law which compels anyone to vote but Government does its part to ensure that voters are sensitised on the need to vote.
“We will think through on whether it would work to make it law to compel people to vote because this is of concern to all of us. But not everything has to be done through legislation,” he said.
Mr Lungu said the issue will be discussed with stakeholders to see how best voters can cast the ballot.
Mr Lungu also urged the chiefs to encourage their subjects to obtain national registration cards in the ongoing mobile issuance exercise to enable them to get voters’ cards and to vote.
“Encourage your subjects to obtain NRCs and to vote in all elections, it is also your role as chiefs,” he said.
President Lungu also appealed to the traditional leaders to reject tribalism and all those that advocate it.
He also urged traditional leaders to offer the best candidates in next year’s elections regardless of tribe.
Mr Lungu assured the chiefs that they will not hear of tribalism as long as he is head of state.
And Mr Lungu says ZNS has been doing very well when it comes to working on roads following the procurement of equipment.
“Previously,  it did not have the capacity but now they have the equipment and they will be having more equipment in June. We want to be using the equipment to be working on the roads because they will respond quickly and are also disciplined,” he said.
He was responding to concerns by Chief Chikanta, who complained about the poor state of the roads in rural parts of Southern Province.
“Come next year, we will be talking of a different story because the entire road network would have been worked on,” Mr Lungu said.
Meanwhile, Mr Lungu said Government does not have the necessary resources to hold a national referendum but will deliver the new constitution according to the will of the people.
He said if people want the referendum, Government will have to give it to them but there are no resources for now.
“We have to be realistic, but if that is what the people want, we will give it to them,” Mr Lungu said.
He said if Parliament does not equally agree with some issues once they are taken there, another way has to be found to ensure that the constitution is delivered to the people.
He said Government will not force anything on the people but will give them what they want.
President Lungu also said there is need to involve chiefs in issues of governance because they are in touch with the people.
“If we involve chiefs in issues of governance, we can tackle a lot of issues that happen in the country like early marriages, deforestation, and other important aspects,” Mr Lungu said.
He also said Government is also working hard to supply food to all areas affected by hunger in the region.
And Chief Siachitema of Kalomo told President Lungu that he is welcome to Southern Province any time.
He said the people of Southern Province love President Lungu and want him to visit the area.
And Chief Macha invited Mr Lungu to Choma on October 15 this year to celebrate the provincial capital’s status as an open defecation-free area, which will also be global hand-washing day.
President Lungu promised to travel to the region on the said day and that he will always create time for the people.