The G12 Crisis Everybody is Ignoring: How the Electoral Commission of Zambia is betraying rural Zambia
E. Munshya, LLB, LLM, M.Div.
Zambia is more than Lusaka. Zambia is more than Ndola. It is dangerous to judge the republic of Zambia by the standards of urban Zambia. It is ridiculous that a portion of 750,000 kilometres squared should be used as the standard for the whole. The problem with the G12 requirements is really not about what the constitution says, but rather what the Electoral Commission of Zambia thinks it says and how the Commission is going about in enforcing the G12 requirements. Adding to this confusion is the Examinations Council of Zambia’s cumbersome and expensive exercise of “verifying” G12 certificates. It is important to listen, and unfortunately neither the Commission nor the Council are listening to the people of rural Zambia. Again, there is no issue with the requirement as stated in the constitution. The problem created by both the Council and the Commission is that they have both interpreted the G12 requirements in ways that are causing serious confusion and mayhem particularly in rural Zambia. All political parties are waking up to the reality that they might not have candidates to stand as councillors or MPs in many rural areas and this problem is being caused by the Commission’s arrogance and the Council’s insolence for the people of Zambia.
The Electoral Commission of Zambia is supposed to be serving the people of Zambia. It is not supposed to be coming up with ridiculous rules that defeat the purpose of having free and fair elections in Zambia. The Electoral Commission has the duty to interpret electoral laws and the constitution in ways that make it easier for people to participate in elections. The Commission is not there to hamper elections, but to make elections easier and accessible to all. The Commission does not have the luxury to treat an election as if it were an examination in the subject of physics or chemistry. Given the choice between two competing interpretations of the constitution, the Commission has the duty to take the interpretation that is more inclusive than exclusive. With regard to G12 requirements, the Commission has the choice in the matter. We know the matter has gone to the Constitutional Court, but even before steps are taken towards litigation, the Commission being a servant of the people should have issued guidelines that are more encouraging of democracy rather than discouraging democracy. The G12 issue has been hammered by many. The fact that we continue to talk about shows that it remains a very important issue. The Commission can and still has the chance to change the dynamics even if the matter is in court.
The Examinations Council of Zambia has also not made matters any easier. My uncle is aspiring to stand as Milenge member of parliament in the former Chembe Constituency. Honestly, there is no one better for the seat than him. He is a true public servant. While he is a regular of Milenge and has the privilege of living in both Milenge and Ndola, he had to make several trips to Lusaka, first to verify his G12 certificate at the Examinations Council of Zambia, then pay the fees to the Council and then was asked to return back to Lusaka three days later to pick up the letter of verification. He does seem to be a person of some modest means, but even for him, the verification exercise is expensive and cumbersome. How many of our fellow villagers would be able to afford to travel to Lusaka for this exercise? Candidates are being asked to wait for days as the Council does its verification and prints the letter of verification. At whose expense? This exercise is being done at a huge cost to democracy and common sense. Rural Zambia has been sidelined by this hugely expensive and unnecessary exercise. We can not move on like this. We cannot interpret the law only from the convenience of urban Zambia. We must think about the people of Kapalala in Milenge, the people of Sinda, and the people of Magoye. We must ask ourselves, how onerous are the regulations we are trying to implement for the people?
The claim that both ECZs are doing what they are doing to prevent fraud, is actually total nonsense. If it is fraud ECZ is trying to stop, why is it only asking for verified G12s and not verified NRCs? It is common knowledge that the NRC is Zambia’s most forged document, how come ECZ is accepting NRCs on their face value but cannot do so with the G12 certificates issued by the Examinations Council of Zambia? Conversely, if original G12 certificates are not good enough and will need a letter of verification what is there to prevent one from obtaining a fraudulent letter of verification? The process the Electoral Commission of Zambia has put in place with its Examination Council of Zambia counterpart is not aimed at preventing fraud. It is only aimed at making it difficult for people to participate in elections and this hurts rural communities more than anyone else.
Elections are just around the corner. The Electoral Commission of Zambia must have elections for all and not just for the elites of Matero and Kanyama. Rural Zambia needs to be respected so that the constitution works for them as well. It would be unacceptable to have elections where the people of Sioma and Liuwa have no credible candidates to represent their wards when President Lungu just commissioned the Lubosi Imwiko Highway close by. Rural Zambia needs more than good roads, it needs to be respected and those bodies who interpret the constitution should do so in ways that esteem rural areas.
Suggested citation: Munshya, E. (2016) The G12 Crisis Everybody is Ignoring: How the Electoral Commission of Zambia is betraying rural Zambia. Elias Munshya Blog (www.eliasmunshya.org) (May 1, 2016).