Watch out for ECZ rigging – VJ

VETERAN politician Vernon Mwaanga has advised election stakeholders to verify facts that the Dubai-based firm which the Electoral Commission of Zambia has decided to award a tender for the printing of ballot papers for the August polls is the same company that printed ballots for the controversial Uganda elections in February this year.
And Mwaanga (right) has advised Zambians to watch ECZ, warning that its insistence on printing ballot papers in Dubai against the will of stakeholders is poisoning the election atmosphere.From front page
Civil society and political parties in Uganda have revealed that some ballot papers printed by Dubai-based Alghurairi Printing and Publishing LLC landed in wrong hands in that country before elections and further allegations were made to the effect that some ballot papers were even pre-marked.
But the ECZ has maintained that there is nothing wrong with printing ballot papers in Dubai as long as stakeholders will be allowed monitor the process.
The commission went further to give a 10-day period in which any objections to the proposed award could be raised.
“If there will be no objections raised by other bidders who lost out, then the Dubai-based printing company will be expected to print and deliver ballot papers, candidate posters and blind votes templates for the August 11, 2016 general elections at a cost of over US$3 million,” stated a ECZ notice.
But Mwaanga challenged stakeholders to countercheck and ascertain whether Alghurairi Printing and Publishing LLC was the one that printed ballot papers for the 2016 Uganda general elections.
“It is important that stakeholders verify this Dubai company. I challenge the stakeholders to verify because there are reports that it is the same company that printed ballot papers in Uganda,” Mwaanga warned.
He said the ECZ was being insensitive by ignoring realities on the ground and insisting on printing ballot papers in Dubai.
“The insistence by the ECZ to print ballot papers in Dubai without consulting or listening to the concerns of stakeholders is tantamount to arrogance and insensitivity, which defies realities on the ground and poisons the election atmosphere in the country. These officials who run our elections are public servants, paid by taxpayers to run elections on behalf of the people of Zambia and have a duty to listen to the people’s representative when they have concerns and ensure that these concerns are taken into serious considerations,” Mwaanga said.
“Yes, ECZ has the responsibility to print ballot papers by law and decide where to print them. The moral of the matter is that they don’t print ballot papers for themselves, but for the people of Zambia who employ them to run elections. It is a fact that the Alghuraiar Printing and Publishing Plc is the same company which printed ballot papers for the Uganda 2016 elections which landed in wrong hands in Uganda just before the elections amid allegations by opposition parties and civil society organisations that the government of President Yoweri Museveni kept printing additional ballot papers. Some of the ballots were pre-marked in favour of Museveni, according to testimony which was presented in court, when Museveni’s re-election was challenged by opposition parties. With this kind of reputation, why should ECZ be so adamant to use a company whose reputation is already under the spotlight?”
He feared that the elections would be disputed before they take place, a situation he described as undesirable.
Mwaanga said public institutions and officials should not bury their heads in the sand when stakeholders raise serious concerns.
“This is a democracy and not a one party state and they should make themselves open to listening to concerns of stakeholders who own the electoral process on behalf of the people. In a democracy, consultation and dialogue is part of the permanent menu on the national table, which must be respected by all without exception,” said Mwaanga.

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