Activists sue ECZ for discarding old voters register

Activists sue ECZ for discarding old voters register

Three artistes and two youths are seeking a judicial review against the Electoral Commission of Zambia’s decision to get rid of the old voter register and to conduct fresh registration of voters within one month on a limited budget.

Fumba Chama known as Pilato, Michael Zulu known as Maiko, Brian Bwembya known as B-Flow and youths Nawa Sitali and Muleta Kapasito, who have commenced the matter on behalf of the electorate, say ECZ has no authority to deregister registered voters except where a voter does not qualify or no longer meets the qualifications for registration.

This is a matter where the people have sued ECZ, ex-parte musicians Fumba Chama, Michael Zulu, Brian Mwembya, Nawa Sitali and Muleta Kapatiso, seeking an order that the decision of ECZ to compel duly registered voters to present themselves before registration officers for verification under a new register for the 2021 general elections as a condition to participate in the poll amounts to de-registering them without notice and following laid down procedure, which is contrary to the law.

Chama and others want an order of cetiorari to quash the decision of ECZ for being irrational in the Wednesbury sense, procedurally improper and illegal.

According to their notice of application for leave to apply for judicial review, Chama and others stated that on 12 June 2020, the ECZ during a media briefing by its chief electoral officer Patrick Nshindano announced that it would undertake a fresh registration of voters.Nshindano said the ECZ would ensure that current registered voters would still be retained on a provision that they present themselves for verification, update and capture of additional information required including biometric capture (10 fingerprints and portrait) and directed that every eligible voter would have to register or verify their details under the new register for the 2021 general elections.

The applicants stated that they were Zambian citizens who were already registered voters on the existing voters’ register and object to being disenfranchised by having their valid and otherwise lawful registration invalidated unlawfully and then required to present themselves for re-registration in a very limited time during a period when the world is dealing with COVID-19, when ECZ by its own admission is grossly underfunded to be able to carry out the full registration envisaged in the proposed 30-day period.

They stated that ECZ’s decision to request that every registered voter should present themselves for verification under a new register as a condition for voting was unlawful as it does not have authority under the law to discard the existing register and implicitly by a stratagem to deregister the applicants who are lawfully and validly registered voters without lawful cause.

Chama and others stated that ECZ was required by section 7 of the electoral process Act no. 35 of 2016 and regulation 8 of the electoral (Registration of voters) Regulations 2010 to conduct continuous voter registration which it has neglected to do claiming it has no money.

“The mandate to carry out continuous voter registration requires that registration of new voters does not stop and can only be suspended for purposes of conducting the elections, and limit the authority of the respondent in relation to registered voters to amendment of details in the register of voters upon the voters’s request and delition of the deceased voters pursuant to section 12, 16 and 17 of the electoral process Act and regulation 12 , 13 and 14 of the Electoral (registration of voters) Regulation 2010,” the applicants said.

They submitted that ECZ has no authority to deregister or conduct itself in a manner that deregisters a registered voter except on the grounds set out in section 10 of the electoral process Act that a voter that does not qualify or no longer meets the qualifications for registration set out in section 8 of the Act has been fradulently registered, or obtained registration through submission of false or misleading information.

The five claim that ECZ now intends to require every registered voter to present themselves before registration officials in a manner that amounts to discarding a current register which had approximately six million registered voters built over many years and require voters who were previously registered effectively re-register.

They stated the decision by ECZ to undertake a fresh registration of voters which will effectively discard the current register and has the effect of de-registering and disefranching duly registered voters who may not verify their details without lawful cause for their de-registration is contrary to the law and without giving them an opportunity to be heard before effecting a decision that adversely affects them.

“ECZ claims that it intends to register approximately nine million voters in a restricted period of 31 days commencing on October 19, 2020 to November 18, 2020 as announced by its chief executive officer on ZNBC where he announced the projected number of voters it seeks to register,” they stated.

Chama and others said that to conduct the full registration of voters ECZ needed K880 million and only K100 million was approved by the Treasury and that even the approved amount has not been dispensed.

“Not withstanding the clear shortage of financial resources and short time left before the general, presidential and parliamentary elections, ECZ is proceeding in a manner that amounts to discarding the current register which has been built up from 2005 to date and abitrarily de-registering approximately six millon registered voters to try and register nine million new and old voters in 30 days without adequate financial resources,” the applicants said.

They further contended that the electoral body’s failure to apply the law correctly would be prejudicial to them and other electorates like them by requiring them to register when they were already registered as voters.

They want an order of mandamus to compel ECZ to rescind its decision to discard the old register and act within the powers vested in it by the law.

Chama and others want an order that if leave is granted, the hearing of the application for judicial review should be expedited and that such leave should operate as a stay of the decision to require already registered voters to present themselves before a registration officer again or else be removed or prevented from voting from in the 2021 general elections.

They also want costs, and all necessary and consequential directions to be given.

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