Editor's Comment

ECZ can do it again

Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) has an impeccable record of delivering transparent, free and fair elections. There is no reason why it cannot do the same yet again for the August 12 polls.
And so in reiterating its assurance that the process is secure from any threats of mischief, ECZ has yet again set the right tone for credibility of what it will present at the end of the day. As virtually always, however, there are some stakeholders who want to paint a gloomy picture of the process. This is to ostensibly discredit the outcome for reasons best known to themselves. It is reassuring though, that the ECZ has effected security measures to secure votes to be cast in next month’s general election. Political parties and other stakeholders have been told that ECZ is not only alive to their concerns, but that the elections body is also attending to these anxieties. It is understandable that stakeholders want a fair playing field and that the actual voting and counting of the votes will be a true reflection of what the citizens did in the privacy of the booths. ECZ chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano says the elections will be credible. To ensure this, the commission has introduced security features on forms like the GEN 20, which is used to declare winners and record results, to make it difficult for anyone to reproduce or photocopy it. But while ECZ is playing its part in ensuring that the polls are transparent and credible, all other stakeholders must play their parts responsibly. Instead of making unwarranted claims and alarming the nation, they should fully acquaint themselves with the processes. They and their supporters, in the case of political parties, must know what documents are being used, how the voting is being done and how the votes are tallied. As Mr Nshindano has said, political parties and their agents should acquaint themselves with the way the ballot papers and other materials have been packaged to avoid accusing the electoral body of “things that do not exist”. It may be recalled, for instance, that during the last polls, some desperate cadres intercepted a truck ferrying elections material and forced it open on misplaced claims that pre-marked ballots were being transported. We hope that such nonsensical acts will not recur this time around. Of course, stakeholders have the right to be vigilant throughout the process. This is why there must be observers right through the process. We, however, do not expect every, or any, Jim and Jack taking the law into their own hands on mere speculation.
Let those entrusted with conducting the elections do their job without being disturbed. This may be under the watchful eye of the various stakeholders, but these should not interfere with the process, other than raise concerns, if any, with the relevant authorities. The stakeholders, especially the political parties, have also been reminded that it is a crime to interfere with the elections process. We expect everyone to know this, but just to ensure that there are no claims of ignorance (which is no defence), the ECZ has underscored this fact. For instance, being found with certain elections documentation before or without authority can have one arrested. In fact, they must be arrested and face the law because it is such people that could dent Zambia’s good reputation of a country that holds free and fair polls. Past insinuations of vote rigging, casting of votes by unregistered people and more people than those registered voting should not arise. Those that raise unsubstantiated allegations must be taken to task. It is just not possible to have more votes cast than the number of people registered. This is because each polling station has a list of registered voters and before they vote, their names are called out and crossed out on the voters’ list. All this is done in the presence of independent monitors and representatives of the respective political parties. Even with the polls being held in an environment (COVID-19) like no other before, there shouldn’t be any challenges that cannot be overcome to the satisfaction of all stakeholders. Let everyone play their role to give Zambia an election outcome that will reflect the will of the voters.

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