SACCORD says the discomfort raised by stakeholders over the printing of ballot papers locally should not be ignored.
Southern African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes SACCORD executive director Boniface Chembe, in an interview yesterday, said the printing of ballot papers locally should not be a source of tension, conflict and division among Zambians.
“It will not be good for us to ignore issues of discomfort that stakeholders may raise. Let us consider printing ballot papers locally but in so doing, let us address all issues of discomfort that various stakeholders may have around such a process. As SACCORD, we believe that the debate in terms of printing ballot papers for the 2021 election should start now. We need to move away from this culture of dealing with very sensitive issues three, four, five, six months before the actual event. So, it is important that this process starts now but a committee to be able to address these issues should be set up. The committee should fulfil all characteristics of a comprehensive consultation process but most importantly address the concerns that various stakeholders may have so that we make everybody as comfortable and as satisfied as possible for us to be able to undertake this particular endeavour domestically,” Chembe said.
“The printing of ballot papers at home must not be a source of conflict; it must not be a source of division and it must not be a source of tension. We must use it as an opportunity for unity, harmony and ultimately a source of us being in charge of our electoral and democratic process.”
SACCORD, however, said the printing of ballot papers locally would erase the conflict and tension brought about by the printing of ballot papers internationally.
“We welcome the printing of ballot papers locally. We do so considering the amount of tension and conflict that the printing of ballot papers has caused when this has been done abroad. This goes back to the 2016 general elections and many other elections that the country has held prior to the 2016 general elections. So, in an effort to ensure that we try to erase the conflict and the tensions that are brought about by the printing of ballot papers internationally, we believe that the printing of ballot papers locally should be explored for a number of reasons. The first being the conflict aspect and the second is the issue of cost. If you look at the entourages that require to go and inspect the printing of ballot papers internationally, it [amount of money involved) is quite colossal,” Chembe said.
“Our view is that if we are able to save the huge sums of money spent on those entourages and pump it in our economy, it will go a long way in helping us sorting out our many issues. Now, with this position, we take note that various stakeholders may be uncomfortable with the printing of ballot papers locally and if there are any issues of discomfort, it is paramount that the government addresses them.”
He advised that the committee to be constituted on the local printing of ballot papers must be multi-partisan.
“We have taken note of the committee that the Vice-President hinted will be put up to be able to address this issue of printing ballot papers locally. That committee must be a multi-partisan committee but also a multi-stakeholder committee that should involve civil society organisations, the church, media, traditional leaders and any other stakeholders in the electoral process,” said Chembe who added that the discussion around the printing of ballot papers locally should be discussed to its logical conclusion.