LET US REGISTER TO VOTE NOW!

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THE extension of the voter registration exercise by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) should not trigger the complacency that was earlier seen, if you have not registered – do it now!

ECZ Chief Electoral Officer Patrick Nshindano had extended the registration exercise by four days in response to public outcry.

It is unfortunate that many citizens still behave as if the electoral body is doing the nation a favour by conducting the voter registration.

This is actually an undertaken that should be driven by citizens.

Zambia is a party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), having ratified it in 1984. Article 25 of the covenant provides every citizen the right and the opportunity, without unreasonable restrictions, or distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status of any differentiation to vote.

In light of this there are laws both local and international that compels citizens to take up their right to vote and there should be no excuse to not register.

At the outset of the exercise there were queues of people willing to wait for hours on end to ensure they were registered but in the later days, the usual complacency came to pass.

The electoral chief, however, commended citizens for turning up in huge numbers to register, adding that it was the desire of the commission to capture all eligible voters in the country.

He further said it was the desire of the electoral body to conduct a credible election and would do everything possible to ensure that the whole process was credible.

The voter registration exercise was conducted in four phases and over 4 million voters had registered up to the third phase with the final figures expected to be announced next week.

The electoral body had projected to register 9 million voters ahead of the general elections to be held on Aug. 12, 2021.

However, the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZAMSTAT) indicated that the actual number of eligible voters stood at 8,414,839.

“The Electoral Commission of Zambia put the figure at nine (9) million people as eligible voters while other quarters has have put the figure at 7.2 million. There have also been suggestions that the figure should be higher than 9 million,” the ZAMSTATS statement read.

“From a legal perspective, only the Zambia Statistics Agency (ZamStats) has the authority on official statistical matters in the country. This is in line with the Statistics Act no. 13 of 2018, Part II, Section 7(1) and I quote “The Agency is the sole designated entity responsible for the publication of official statistics”. These statistics include population statistics by age, sex, geographical location such as rural or urban as well as voter eligibility in any year. From this perspective only a statistical figure issued by the Agency is admissible in such national matters. In this respective, the Agency would like to provide guidance on the matter of estimated eligible population for 2021.

“According to the current projections the following must be noted:

(i) The Agency has projected a total population of 17,885,422 people in 2020; and

(ii) Based on the 2010 Census of Population and Housing the age structures were,

a. Forty-seven (47) percent of the total population was aged 18 years and above,

b. Fifty-three (53) percent were aged below 18 years.

Eligibility for voting in terms of the age is 18 years and above in Zambia. In estimating the voting eligibility population, the Agency has carried forward the eligibility population of 47 percent from the 2010 Census results. This is on the assumption that the age structure does not change much between two Census periods which in the case of Zambia spans over 10 years.

“In respect of the above, the 47 percent age structure was applied to all projected district populations and *aggregated to come up with an estimate of 8,414,839 eligible voters.*

This means that any statistics issued by any persons or organisation other than the Agency are not official and have no legal basis.”

ECZ has so far done a commendable job covering all the 116 districts to ensure that all voters are captured in the system.

The exercise also included registration, for the first time, of inmates.

The electoral chief said it was encouraged by the enthusiasm shown by the inmates in registering to vote and hoped the targeted 3,000 inmates would be achieved.

Stakeholders had been urging the electoral body to extend the exercise following the poor start of the exercise due to logistical challenges.

The Commission has as at the weekend registered 6.4 million voters and revised its target downwards to 8.4 million.

Mr Nshindano said the registered voters so far represents a 76.1% of the 8.4 million eligible voters.

“The commission is pleased to announce that the earlier announced extension period will start on Thursday for the period of four days up to Sunday midnight in all the 116 districts throughout the country,” he said.

Mr Nshindano said the extension will run from December 17 – 20, 2020.

He said the extension has also been extended to correctional facilities where 11,359 voters have been registered against the targeted 16,000.

Those that have not registered yet must take advantage of the extension period and register.

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