Number of rejected votes upsets Chipenzi

GEARS Initiative Zambia says the upsurge in the number of rejected ballots in the August 12 general elections was upsetting.

About 124,906 spoiled votes were recorded in last Thursday’s elections compared to 85,795 recorded in 2016.

GEARS Initiative Zambia executive director MacDonald Chipenzi cited lack of voter education as one of the major reasons of the spoiled votes.

“In 2016 the rejected vote was competing with the second candidate in that election even now the rejected vote is the third presidential candidate and should be a worry but this time it has been worse,” he noted. “The reason could be since we didn’t have proper voter education in most of these constituencies because of COVID-19. Voter educators were just going round with a megaphone whether that message was being listened to or not as long as they have passed in that area for them they would have done that voter education.”

Chipenzi said other factors that led to votes being spoiled was the increase in the number of voters.

“Secondly is that we had new first time voters in this election and a number of them woke up to cast their vote and they cast their vote in an uninformed manner due to poor voter education. Most civil societies never carried out voter education specifically on how to cross on the ballot so that could have been one of the contributing factors for first time voters,” he said. “Most of the first time voters were school dropouts in rural, peri-urban and urban areas. They needed a lot of orientation on this issue. Students were voting for the first time, there was this excitement. The other cause was that there were four ballots that were given at a go. Now a person who has been a first time voter doesn’t know what to do to those four and where to mark and they could not ask presiding officers about it do due to language barrier.”

Chipenzi cited COVID-19 and limited funding as some of the challenges that hit the Electoral Commission of Zambia.

“ECZ could have been interested in doing so (voter education) but there were two factors that limited the willingness such as COVID-19 where it could not gather people to orient them about voting and the issue of funding,” he noted. “The Commission on this election went with very limited funding. That’s why even at polling station level ECZ had difficulties to produce Gen 20 forms for monitors and polling agents as some were told to go and photocopy. Even when it came to accreditation. Yet that was money that was supposed to be sourced by ECZ to make sure that there were enough copies and compliance on the electoral code of conduct. ECZ was not well prepared to orient people even without COVID-19 due to lack of funding therefore it wouldn’t have done a good job.”

Chipenzi urged the UPND government to draw lessons from last Thursday’s elections because people fought against constitutional manipulation by the out-going PF government.

He said the election demonstrated that Zambians only want a president who can serve for two five-year terms and do not want anyone who would go beyond 10 years.

“The current outgoing President was advised not to go for a third election because that was against the Constitution but he insisted and using the court to manipulate the Constitution he went ahead and stood. But the Zambian people said they are the best judge and they will not allow the manipulation of the Constitution,” Chipenzi said. “This election has defied politicians who believe that language, region and tribalism will help them win. This election has demonstrated that it is all about leadership. This election was looking for a leader to lead the people because there was a leadership deficiency in the country. This is why we saw votes from across the country because they (electorates) need a leader and not a politician. So they chose unity, existence. Those are the lessons we can draw from this. It has given us a lesson that caderism, if tolerated by leaders will not be tolerated by Zambian people.”

Chipenzi cautioned the UPND leadership against promoting the emerging, existence and sustenance of caderism because it risks surviving an election in Zambia.

“Let people be liberated, have the freedom to move, dress, dance the way they want to – to appear at any radio and TV station without intimidation and brutalisation,” Chipenzi advised. “The new government must take note of these elections. They must not allow cadres in the market, at bus stops, stations, taxi ranks. They should not tolerate corruption just because we know each other, no. They should promote accountability and transparency.”

Chipenzi warned against trampling on people’s rights.

“They should allow people to enjoy their fundamental rights, freedom of association, assembly and expression. Media freedom must be respected – they should not be swayed by consistent headlines in the public media. Any public media which will try to patronise them should be censured because they (leaders) should demand that they want to hear ordinary people and other stakeholders’ voices,” said Chipenzi. “In doing so they will learn that it is that critical voice that will help them to maintain a win on the next election. “If they will be so excited with making headlines on ZNBC they will also go the way this current government has gone and ZNBC has already shifted that’s how this public media behaves. So don’t get excited for getting headlines, no.”

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