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What are they hiding, CARITAS queries govt’s ban on NRC issuance monitoring

[By Christopher Miti and Masuyo Chakwe]

CARITAS Chipata governance unit programmes coordinator John Mthaziko Zulu says it is disappointing that Home Affairs minister Stephen Kampyongo has ordered that the mobile issuance of NRCs should not be monitored.

In an interview, Zulu said the exercise was a public activity that deserves to be monitored.

“We are very disappointed with home affairs minister Kampyongo, who is saying the exercise should not be monitored. The mobile issuance of NRCs is a public activity which uses taxpayers’ money and the minister has got no right to stop citizens to see what is happening, what are they hiding? What is so special with this exercise because we have been monitoring a lot of activities such Food Reserve Agency marketing, Constituency Development Fund and many others?” he asked.

Zulu challenged Kampyongo to state the law which bans citizens from monitoring mobile issuance of NRCs.

“So the banning in itself is a sign of bad governance which is not transparent. In fact, if this exercise is monitored, it will work to his advantage because it means he will be getting information about what will be happening from two sides. He will be getting information from the government side and also from independent bodies like the churches and others,” he said.

Zulu said even political parties like PF could monitor the exercise to see to it that it is not biased.

“This is a serious issue that deserves to be monitored, so we are very disappointed with the minister,” he said.

Zulu said the launch of the mobile issuance of NRCs had come at the right time.

“This is a commendable decision by the government because most of the youths do not have NRCs. Most youths do not have NRCs due to distances to various district centres. We want to commend government for this gesture and at the same time we want to encourage parents to ensure that their children get NRCs. Again we want the youths to register in large number so that they participate in elections and participate in deciding who should be their leaders,” said Zulu.

Meanwhile, GEARS Initiative says it disagrees with the position taken by the Ministry of Home Affairs to stop organisations and individuals interested in monitoring the issuance of NRCs in Zambia from doing so.

Executive director McDonald Chipenzi said it was imperative for the ministry to understand that organisations or citizens do not need accreditation to monitor or conduct sensitisation programmes on the issuance of National Registration Card exercise going on around the country as this was their civic duty and responsibility.

Chipenzi said instead, the ministry should have been happy and encouraging those organisations, institutions and individuals intending to do so at their own cost to proceed to enhance credibility, transparency and accountability in the process.

“Therefore, demanding for accreditation to monitor the exercise is courting suspicions and is asking stakeholders not to also participate in community awareness raising on the need for those eligible to turn out in numbers to obtain the NRCs since these stakeholders will not be accredited,” he said.

“GEARS Initiative wishes to remind the ministry that citizens have a constitutional right, duty and responsibility to hold any public institution, including the Ministry of Home Affairs, accountable.”

Chipenzi said this was meant to foster high-level transparency and accountability in the process since it was part of the public service delivery chain.

“This issuance of NRCs exercise is not an ordinary exercise but one done for the purpose of facilitating for the registration of voters for the 2021 elections. GEARS Initiative feels strongly that there is no need for any organisation to be accredited to monitor any public service delivery process and therefore no point for the ministry to stop anyone from monitoring the exercise,” he said.

“In any case, the political parties, both the ruling and opposition, are key stakeholders and beneficiaries to this exercise, especially that this time, NRC issuance exercise is meant to accord citizens, especially the youths [a chance] to register as voters.”

Chipenzi said the Ministry of Home Affairs should do the right thing and then it would have nothing to fear, and consequently help reduce speculation, suspicion and innuendos associated with the exercise.

He said GEARS Initiative, therefore, found utterances and directives to stop interested organisations to monitor the exercise not only surprising and scary but also against the established norm and past practices.

Chipenzi said this was not the first time that such an exercise had happened ahead of a major election.

He said in all past exercises, stakeholders were allowed to monitor the exercise at their own cost.

“What is so special with this year’s exercise for the ministry to attempt to stop stakeholders from monitoring the exercise? What does it want to do with the exercise? Weren’t internal validation mechanisms there in the past when stakeholders were allowed to monitor the exercise?” he asked.

“We call on the ministry to seriously reflect on its statement before it jeopardises the good intention of the exercise and stakeholders’ cooperation in the process. With persistent allegations of the exercise having the potential to capture foreigners, especially in border areas, stopping stakeholders from monitoring the exercise will heighten the allegations against the ministry of trying to issue such documents to foreigners.”

Chipenzi, however, said GEARS Initiative appreciates the decision by the ministry to allow those without birth certificates and under-five cards to participate in the exercise as long as they prove that they were eligible.

“Further, GEARS Initiative agrees with the ministry that those who want to oversee the exercise should not use intimidation or harass the issuing officers as that is interfering with the process but instead bring any observable inadequacies to relevant authorities,” said Chipenzi.

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