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ECZ plan to cut funding over monitoring printing of ballots is unwise -GEARS

[By Emelia Phiri]

THE Governance Election Advocacy Research Services Initiative Zambia says the decision by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to cut funding for political parties from monitoring the printing of ballot papers in Dubai is unwise and likely to spur suspicions.

GEARS chief executive director McDonald Chipenzi said an election is a process, meaning at every stage it must be monitored and transparent.

“Political parties are the soul and the lifeblood of any multiparty democracy. The registered ones are about 100 and the active ones are about 60 in number. Botswana is one such a country that funds political parties. The trip to Dubai to go and observe the printing of ballot papers is where there is transparency in choosing who is supposed to go,” Chipenzi noted on ZNBC’s ‘Morning live’ programme yesterday.

He argued that while austerity measures are key, election money is budgeted for in the first place.

“Citizens have seen where people go to Dubai on trips that are unproductive carrying a huge number of people just going to see Washington and New York,” he said. “Now, elections are a very delicate thing because that is what brings leaders and you cannot cut funding for people who want to see what is happening in the process. Even as civil societies, it is not every civil society that should go. They choose amongst themselves, the same with political parties.”

Chipenzi said if the ECZ does not want to sponsor political parties, it should bring the printing process right in the country.

“Democracy is expensive and it is about inclusiveness. ECZ cannot take the printing process in Dubai where they know that many of us will not reach. That is basically banning them. That is taxpayers’ money. If it means all of us benefiting from the monitoring process, then we need to benefit together, not ECZ alone,” he said. “At the start of printing of ballot papers, Zambia was printing in South Africa. It only changed in 2016 when ECZ went to Dubai. Now look at the money spent by ECZ just to go and monitor in Dubai, it is very expensive.”

Chipenzi told the ECZ that what civil society organisations were saying is that while the commission has a mandate to choose a printer, Dubai is not a good destination.

“Zambia is taking money, about US$6.7 to Dubai. Dubai is more developed than Zambia. Also look at it from this angle, ECZ said that there was only one Dubai company that has been shortlisted to print the ballot papers, where are the eleven printing companies that were spotted? Even if ECZ say they don’t want that company, what other alternative ECZ is giving the Zambian people?” asked Chipenzi.

Meanwhile, Zambia Centre for Interparty Dialogue executive director Doreen Njobvu said the decision by ECZ not to fund political party election monitoring process is not fair especially in a democratic country like Zambia.

“ECZ should have consulted the political parties unlike coming up with the decision abruptly,” said Njobvu.

She added that ZCID was not buying the story of ECZ not being sustainable, no wonder its decision to cut funding for political parties.

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