Analysis: ALFRED ZULU
THE major causes of disputes in most African countries can be attributed to a myriad of reasons.
But the most common are about lack of inclusiveness and diversity.
African states, including Zambia, inherited electoral models from their colonial masters after independence and, to make matters worse, these African states did little or nothing at all to reform the election laws and processes in use. Elections in Africa are the only window available for entry into the political decision-making forums – the ability to possess power and govern is through participating or taking part in an election in Africa.
However, election rules and processes are so restrictive and are an expensive venture in Africa. The starting point of electoral reforms should be to broaden the level playing field – with this, l mean that there should be as many electoral positions as possible.
Despite the fact that Zambia is more than 750,000 km square, and has 10 provinces, there are less than 200 elected members of Parliament. There is need to increase the number of MPs in Zambia to 400 for example, so that we have diverse and wider participation in the Nation Assembly.
All provinces were supposed to have elected provincial assemblies; this was a novel idea that would have gone a long way in increasing the numbers of elected public officials.
The other issue is that the electoral models are basically manual and primitive and hugely expensive for nothing. There is need to incorporate newer technologies and innovations in the election systems in Africa, including Zambia.
Governments in Africa have been too slow or rigid to introduce radical reforms and re-adjustments so that there is more transparency in the election system such as:
1. Digital voter identification and registration;
2. Electronic balloting process and vote tallying;
3. Notification of voting centres using electronic system;
4. Use of computer technology in rapid vote counting and verification mechanism;
5. Stream lining voter IDs;
6. Decentralisation of voter results etc, are some of the examples that cause rifts and disputes in Africa.
All stakeholders and elections managers of political parties should build consensus and rapport on the mechanism and processes that are going to be deployed in an election.
There should be no arbitrariness in the selection of the model that is used in the conduct of elections.
The cardinal point is to ensure that transparency and robustness are the cornerstone of any electoral process in any country.
Moreover, elections should be built on a cradle of diversity and inclusiveness and must stand the test of time.
There should be elections in all public offices such as mayoral, district and provincial leaders, MPs, and presidential.
As a way of reforms, there should be as many office bearers who are elected at all levels so that power and decision making processes for the public affairs can be well distributed and widened.
In its present form, current election models in Africa, including Zambia, are so restrictive and discriminatory and therefore are a recipe for conflict and confrontation because only fewer men and women are elected and therefore are deemed to be undemocratic and far short of inducing a pluralistic society. Radical changes and reforms are a necessary antidotes to creating stability and tranquillity in the democratic spaces in Africa as a whole.
The author is a former president of the Zambia Independent Monitoring Team, a Human Rights And election monitoring NGO.