CCMG Remains Concerned about Continued Reports of Limited Mobile NRC Issuance Activities without Public Information
Urges Comprehensive Public Awareness Efforts; Publication of Deployment Plan, Targets and Procedures for Mobile NRC Issuance
Amid continued reports of unannounced mobile NRC issuance activities from its observers, the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) again calls on the Ministry of Home Affairs to provide stakeholders and the public with comprehensive information on current mobile National Registration Card (NRC) issuance activities. In addition, CCMG urges the Ministry to release a detailed plan, including procedures, locations and schedules, for the announced nationwide mobile National Registration Card (NRC) issuance exercise beginning in August 2020 in order to build confidence among the public in the fairness of the process.
CCMG’s observers have reported 54 instances of unannounced mobile NRC issuance activities since November 2019. These include 13 instances in Eastern, 16 instances in Luapula, one instance in Lusaka, 5 instances in Muchinga, 13 instances in Northern, and 6 instances in North Western. After a lull in April and May when the COVID-19 mitigation measures were more restrictive, instances of unannounced mobile NRC issuance activities increased in June and are at their highest level thus far in July, with a total of 10 instances taking place in Eastern, Luapula, Muchinga and Northern provinces. CCMG remains concerned that the lack of public information on unannounced mobile NRC issuance activities creates the perception of an unfair process and so could damage public confidence in the electoral process.
“The Minister of Home Affairs has stated there are some mobile NRC issuance activities underway already, but the Ministry has failed to provide the locations targeted or the schedule for these activities. As having an NRC is critical for registering to vote, CCMG is concerned at the lack of information on the issuance activities taking place since November 2019. We call on the Ministry to release information immediately to the public about these activities,” said CCMG Steering Committee Spokesperson Fr. Emmanuel Chikoya.
CCMG raised the issue of unannounced mobile NRC issuance in a statement on 22 December 2019 and again on 26 February 2020. In each of these statements, CCMG called on the Ministry of Home Affairs to release information about these exercises, as well as for the Ministry to provide its plan for engagement with stakeholders on the issue. Despite CCMG’s requests and engagement with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of National Registration and Citizenship (DPNRC), this information has not been provided to stakeholders.
Earlier this month, the Minister of Home Affairs announced that nationwide mobile NRC issuance will take place beginning in August 2020, in two 40-day phases beginning with Luapula, Northern, North-Western, Copperbelt and Eastern provinces in the first phase and Western, Southern, Lusaka, Central and Muchinga provinces in the second phase. However, despite CCMG’s repeated requests to both the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Department of National Registration, Passports and Citizenship, no further information on the detailed schedule, targets or procedures has been released.
“CCMG remains concerned about the lack of any publicly available schedule for the nationwide mobile NRC issuance exercise announced for August. Given that voter registration is slated for October, it is urgent that the Ministry of Home Affairs release its schedule for mobile NRC issuance to ensure that the public can participate in the process and receive their NRCs before voter registration, and for stakeholders to participate in raising awareness. CCMG has requested previously that the Ministry share its nationwide plan and the matter is only more urgent now due to the imminent start of the exercise,” said CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Fr. Cleophus Lungu.
CCMG also calls on the Ministry of Home Affairs to detail the COVID-19 mitigation measures it plans to implement for the nationwide mobile NRC issuance process. CCMG recommends the use of face masks, the provision of handwashing or sanitizing facilities, and maintenance of social distancing during the issuance of NRCs. In addition, CCMG urges the Ministry to engage in early awareness raising of these measures so that no one is unable to receive an NRC due to non-adherence to the measures put in place. CCMG notes that during the 2015/16 mobile NRC issuance and voter registration exercises, stakeholders raised concerns about the lack of coordination between the schedules of the two and raised questions on the impact of the lack of coordination on the fairness of the electoral process. CCMG does not want the mistakes of that time repeated as the country heads toward the 2021 elections. Therefore, CCMG calls upon the Ministry of Home Affairs, to release immediately the details of mobile NRC issuance exercises conducted thus far, to make public without delay the schedules nationwide mobile NRC issuance and to engage stakeholders to raise public awareness of the exercise.