NATIONAL Dialogue Forum spokesperson Isaac Mwanza yesterday moved a motion during a plenary session that Zambians in the diaspora be allowed to vote.
Meanwhile, justice minister Given Lubinda says despite the lifespan of the NDF having been extended twice, “we are within the budget that was approved for this process.”
As the NDF delegates were debating reports from the groups on the electoral system and electoral process amendment bill 2019, Mwanza moved a motion that Zambians living abroad be allowed to vote at Zambia’s embassies and consulars in those countries.
Theresa Phiri, an official from the Electoral Commission of Zambia, then said it was up to the NDF to decide whether Zambians living abroad could vote.
She noted that at the moment, Zambians in the diaspora have to travel to come and register to be on the electoral register.
“They also have to travel to come and vote,” said Phiri, adding that the ECZ was also carrying out research on whether it could introduce electronic voting.
Mwanza’s motion was seconded by several delegates and there were no objections from the NDF.
Hence, the motion was adopted by the NDF. Later, Mwanza and Lubinda held a press briefing within the Forum’s plenary hall at Mulungushi International Conference Centre in Lusaka.
He reiterated that Zambians living abroad would be allowed to vote, as agreed by the NDF.
“It has also been unanimously agreed that Zambians who are living in the diaspora should participate in electing their leaders and this is the good news to our people in the diaspora who have been crying for a vote,” Mwanza said.
“This is the progress that has been made and we hope that this matter will take serious consideration as Ministry of Justice drafters are drafting the bills.”
He said there had been numerous questions on the electoral system that the NDF adopted.
“The Forum this morning considered the electoral process Act and before the consideration of the Act, it was a decision of the secretariat that we should consider the system. The [electoral] process and the system are too different,” Mwanza said.
“The major issue was on the election of the President of the Republic of Zambia, the election of members and councillors and the system that has been proposed for electing MPs and councillors.”
He said there was almost a near consensus by the NDF delegates that the current system, which provided for the election of the President, may remain in the Constitution.
“But it’s so persuasive that we must have an election that will provide for a coalition government in an event that there is no outright winner from the first round. That matter is being left to be discussed and researched further by the technocrats,” Mwanza said.
“When we come to the issue of electing members of parliament and councillors, the Forum did agree to have the mixed member proportion representation system. This system is going to be prescribed in a new Act that would be called the electoral system Act – it will categorise how the system will work.”
He said consensus among delegates was emerging on the need to do away with by-elections.
“We need to have more women in Parliament and councils, we need to have more young people, we need to have marginalised groups such as those who are physically challenged,” he explained.
“This system (proportion representation) is going to provide for such representation. The system is going to be researched [on] and the details will be in the electoral system Act.”
Mwanza also said the Forum unanimously resolved that the system of electing councillors be relegated to subsidiary legislation.
Asked about people in correctional facilities who are eligible to vote, Mwanza responded that: “the ECZ has been very clear” on the matter.
“They (the ECZ) are now doing a study on how to capture them [and see] how this system would work. There is a judgment of the court that our colleagues, relatives who are in the correctional facilities should participate in the voting system,” noted Mwanza.
“This Forum has agreed that those who are in the correctional facilities must indeed participate in voting, in line with the judgment by the court.”
Meanwhile, Lubinda stressed that the NDF had no money “whatsoever to pay allowances to any delegate to the Forum.”
He said Section 15 of the NDF stated that sponsoring institutions of the delegates to the Forum would pay allowances, if need be.
“However, institutions that sponsored delegates to the Forum, if they so wish and determine that they ought to, are at liberty to pay allowances to their representatives. It is therefore extremely mischievous for anyone to insinuate that members of the Forum are being paid allowances by the Forum or by government,” Lubinda explained.
On the amount of money or the budget that has been spent on the NDF deliberations so far, the minister responded that all he could say was that: “for us to have extended meant that we had the resources available for us to pay for the venue and to feed delegates.
“That shouldn’t be a cause of worry whatsoever; we are within the budget that was approved for this process,” said Lubinda.
He added that seeing how “precise contributions” were at the NDF, “I wouldn’t be too off the mark if I said I expect that by the end of the day today or midday Wednesday, the Forum should be concluding with the presentation of bills to the respective ministers.”