The Zambia National Women’s Lobby says many eligible voters will be disenfranchised in the January 20th presidential election by the narrow criteria, and the short period of time allocated for the replacement of voters’ cards.
ZNWL director Juliet Kaira Chibuta says a survey conducted in 77 constituencies by her organisation revealed that some people, especially women, failed to have their voters cards replaced because they were advised to have their cards replaced in districts where they originally registered and most of them had no resources to travel.
“Other women, especially in rural areas, said they were hampered by the rains, as they were either busy cultivating or could not have access to the centres due to the heavy rains. The people also cited the challenge of the replacement centres being few as some people in far flung areas were unable to access them. Some women also reported that there was also not much publicity on the exercise and some people, especially in rural areas, were not aware that the process was being done,’ she said.
Chibuta said the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) could have begun the voters’ replacement exercise much earlier to allow as many citizens as possible to replace their voters’ cards. She said the ECZ should also have done a lot of publicity on the process, especially in rural parts of the country.
‘We note from the information released by the ECZ that from the number of voters who have managed to replace their cards, only 18,553 women were successful as opposed to 33,545 men. This is despite women being the majority voters in Zambia. Such a discrepancy calls for an investigation into why fewer women as compared to men were not able or not willing to have their cards replaced so that they could take up their right to vote. The women of Zambia deserve an equal and equitable share and participation in the electoral process of Zambia,’ Chibuta explained.
Chibuta urged the ECZ to urgently consider implementing the continuous voter registration and replacement of voters’ cards as stipulated in the Electoral Act No. 12 of 2006 just after next week’s presidential bye-elction.
Zambia National Women’s Lobby furhter appealed to all eligible voters, especially women, to turn up enmasse and vote in this election on the 20th January. ZNWL director Chibuta said this is a very important election to the nation and should not be shunned by any eligible voter.
‘We also urge political party leaders in the country to counsel their political party members to avoid any acts of violence as the country prepares to vote on 20th January.
‘Zambia is renowned as one of Africa’s strongest democracies and it is our hope that this election is conducted in a free and fair manner. We call upon unsuccessful political party leaders to concede defeat gracefully while remaining committed to the development of Zambia. ‘