Warns of Possible Disenfranchisement without Nationwide Mobile NRC Issuance Prior to Voter Registration
Expresses Concern about Continued CCMG Monitor Reports of Limited Mobile NRC Issuance Activities without Public Information
The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) urges the Ministry of Home Affairs to clarify its plans for the mobile National Registration Card (NRC) issuance exercise and calls on it to release immediately the schedule for any current mobile NRC issuance activities as well as the plan and nationwide schedule for mobile NRC issuance exercises in 2020.
Per the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) regulations, any person wishing to register to vote must have an NRC card. There are many new voters who have become eligible since the 2016 elections and do not currently have NRC. With the recent announcement by the ECZ that it would begin mobile voter registration in May, CCMG is concerned about possible voter disenfranchisement if citizens are not afforded the opportunity to apply for NRC through a mobile NRC issuance exercise. Prior to the 2016 elections, the Ministry of Home Affairs’ projection for new NRC cards to be issued under the 2015 nationwide mobile NRC issuance exercise was just over 1 million.1 Thus, CCMG anticipates that failure to conduct a mobile NRC issuance exercise prior to mobile voter registration in every area of the country would result in considerable disenfranchisement of new voters.
The Ministry of Home Affairs has not yet publicly shared any plans or schedules for a nationwide mobile NRC issuance exercise. In 2015, the Ministry announced it would begin the national mobile NRC issuance several months prior to the mobile voter registration exercise and also noted that the exercise would be in 90-day phases. It is now less than 90 days to May, the month in which ECZ has said it will begin the mobile voter registration exercise.
“CCMG is very concerned about the lack of any publicly available information related to the Ministry of Home Affairs’ schedule for the nationwide mobile NRC issuance exercise. We are now just more than two months away from when ECZ says it will begin mobile voter registration. Our fear is that the Ministry of Home Affairs will not be able to conduct the mobile NRC issuance exercise in each area prior to the start of mobile voter registration and so many people could be disenfranchised. This is an urgent matter, and it is important that the Ministry shares publicly its nationwide plan for mobile NRC issuance immediately,” said CCMG Steering Committee Chairperson Fr. Cleophus Lungu.
CCMG also asks the ECZ to coordinate closely with the Ministry of Home Affairs to ensure that no mobile voter registration takes place in an area prior to mobile NRC issuance in the same area. If that is unavoidable, then CCMG asks that ECZ return to the area at a later time for a supplemental mobile voter registration exercise, as was done in several instances prior to the 2016 elections. Without these measures, some eligible voters inevitably will be disenfranchised.
In addition, CCMG notes that the Minister of Home Affairs confirmed the existence of some mobile NRC issuance activities in Parliament on 13 December and also on Hot FM2 on 24 December 2019. Since January, CCMG monitors have confirmed mobile NRC issuance activities at various times in the following provinces: Eastern, Northern, Luapula, North Western and Muchinga Provinces. However, to date there is no publicly available schedule for these activities, despite CCMG requests from the Ministry for that schedule. CCMG is concerned that the lack of public information on the mobile NRC issuance activities creates the perception of an unfair process and so could damage public confidence in the electoral process. As such, CCMG urges the Ministry to Home Affairs to declare publicly all areas where mobile NRC issuance has taken place since November 2019 and to disclose immediately the schedule for any future mobile NRC issuance activities.
“The Minister of Home Affairs has stated there are some mobile NRC issuance activities underway already, but there is no information available from the Ministry on the locations targeted or the schedule for these activities. With the NRC requirement for voter registration, CCMG is concerned the lack of information could damage public confidence in the electoral process. We urge the Ministry to release information publicly and immediately about these activities,” said CCMG Steering Committee Spokesperson Fr. Emmanuel Chikoya.
CCMG first raised the issue of unannounced mobile NRC issuance in a statement on 22 December 2019. At that time, CCMG called on the Ministry of Home Affairs to release information about the exercise, including the deployment schedule and the Ministry’s plans for extension of the exercises to all provinces, as well as the Ministry’s plans for engagement with stakeholders on the issue. Despite CCMG’s requests and engagement with the Department of National Registration and Citizenship (DPNRC), this information has not been provided to stakeholders.
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 questioned the impact of that 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 issuances conducted thus far, to make public quickly the schedules for the phased nationwide mobile NRC issuance and to engage stakeholders to raise public awareness of the exercise. CCMG also calls on the ECZ to coordinate with the Ministry of Home Affairs so that all Zambians have equal opportunity to obtain their NRCs and register to vote.