By Bennie Mundando
POLITICAL parties today walked out of the consultative meeting at the Mulungushi International Conference Centre by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) for introducing the drafted electoral amendment bill of 2020 on the right of inmates to vote.
The ECZ had called for a consultative meeting to address, among other issues, the right of the prisoners to vote in the 2021 elections but when the amendment bill was presented to the stakeholders, political parties walked out in protest saying there was no consultation between them and the electoral body.
United Party for National Development (UPND) Lusaka Provincial chairperson Obvious Mwaliteta said the party will not allow the ECZ to bulldoze its electoral mandate without being accountable to the Zambian people.
Speaking this afternoon shortly after walking out of a stakeholders meeting on the right of prisoners to vote, Mr Mwaliteta said it was a folly for the ECZ to ignore major stakeholders in the electoral process in coming up with a decision to allow prisoners vote in the 2021 general election.
He says a lot of issues remained unclear on how the ECZ intended to proceed with its plans to have inmates vote during the 2021 tripartite elections owing to the lack of a clear roadmap on how political players would conduct their campaigns in prisons.
“We are not saying that we are opposed to inmates voting in the 2021 elections, but what we are against is them (ECZ) giving us an example that in South Africa it is happening. It can’t work in Zambia because in South Africa the people who appoint the Commission General of prisons is not the President,” he said.
He has wondered how the ECZ would ensure free, fair and credible 2021 elections if the opposition political parties were not allowed to campaign in prisons while being accused of planning to fan violence in correctional facilities.
“If political parties are not allowed to to go and campaign in Chimbokaila, then we are not going to have a polling agent because we need to have a polling agent inside. But, also, suppose the Commissioner General of the Zambia Correctional Services is given specific instructions by the appointing authority, how are we going to monitor our votes?” he asked.
And Zambia Direct Democracy Movement (ZDDM) vice President Charles Kafumbo said political parties decided to walk out because they could not agree with the process of ECZ on the voting of inmates as contained in the bill.
Mr. Kafumbo says the ECZ was supposed to agree and agree to disagree with the political parties.
“We came here at Mulungushi International Conference Centre for a meeting by ECZ to discuss on inmates voting but we were taken by surprise that the Commission started to table a bill of 2020 on the in mates voting.
“Who did the commission consult on the process or on modalities on this process? Who represented a technical committee on the recommendations from the political parties who are the major stakeholders?” Mr Kafumbo asked.