The Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (SACCORD) has advised political parties to be proactive in finding other means of sponsoring their own observers if the Electoral Body, the ECZ, maintains its stance not to sponsor any political party observers during the printing of ballot papers for the 2020 polls.
And SACCORD has commended the ECZ for proactively informing the nation on the status of printing ballot papers in Dubai.
In a statement issued to the media SACCORD Executive Director Boniface Cheembe said it would be prudent for political parties to start strategizing on how to send their observers to Dubai as opposed to issuing statements and complaining.
Mr. Cheembe was however quick to advise ECZ that it should ensure that no political party regardless of status ruling or opposition should use government resources to travel to Dubai for ballot paper inspection if it maintains its stance on the matter.
“A related issue to printing of ballot papers abroad is that of monitoring or observing the ballot paper printing process. The ECZ has maintained that they will not sponsor political parties to travel abroad to monitor or observe this process because the austerity measures make it difficult for them to facilitate such a process. In view of this development, SACCORD would want to advance two recommendations to both the political stakeholders and the ECZ.
To political stakeholders, it would be prudent to take proactive measures of ensuring that some planning or preparations of putting in place measures to support their own observers/monitors for this important process are in place should the ECZ not be convinced by stakeholders to change their position.
“To the ECZ, should this position be maintained it is paramount that it is implemented fairly across the board irrespective of political affiliation in the interest of peace and unity. In other words, the ECZ must ensure that both the ruling Patriotic Front (PF) and opposition political parties do not use government money to send their representatives to monitor/observe the printing of ballot papers but instead all of them use their own resources should they decide to send representatives. This would be the fair and just thing to do should the decision by the ECZ not to support political parties be upheld,” he said.
And Mr Cheembe said the move by ECZ to announce that ballot papers would be printed in Dubai was timely as stakeholders had expected the ballots would be printed locally but that there was little or no information on how far government printers had gone with the preparation.
“Prior to this announcement, the nation had been anticipating that ballot papers would be printed domestically, and it was expected that government printers would inform the nation on the state of preparedness for the huge task ahead, but this update has either been thin or absent. This has left many stakeholders to wonder whether government printers have managed to develop and strengthen their technical and security capacity to print ballot papers for an election so important as the 2021 general elections.
“The ever suspicious and competitive political environment that Zambia has requires a tested and proven credible track record of ballot paper printing that will build stakeholder confidence. Zambia has printed ballot papers in various cities and countries abroad, including Dubai, largely on account of the track record of the companies,” he said.
He added “all the ballot papers for the by-elections that the country has held since 2016 have been printed abroad, largely in Dubai. Therefore, if the government printers does not inform the nation on its readiness to print ballot papers domestically, considering that this has not been done for by-elections, the country may need to settle printing ballot papers for the 2021 elections abroad in a country that the ECZ and stakeholders may settle for, including Dubai,” he said.
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