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MUDDLED ZAMBIAN VOTER REGISTRATION CREATED LOOPHOLE FOR FOREIGNERS TO VOTE

By Linda Soko Tembo

Party officials of the former governing Patriotic Front (PF) are accused of having offered money and other benefits to foreigners in exchange for votes in the 2021 election which was subsequently won by Hakainde Hichilema’s United Party for National Development (UPND).

MakanDay has seen some of the identity cards issued by both Zambian and Mozambiquan authorities bearing similar details. Some of the names also appear on the new voters’ register.  The voter registration mess goes back to last year when the government ditched the electoral roll and gave voters just 38 days to sign up afresh. Slightly over 7.2 million voters were captured under the new voters’ register.

Government has not explained how a national programme ended up being a party function.

“If you discover an individual who has obtained Zambian documents, be it NRCs or passports, such matters are supposed to be reported to the police so that they can institute an investigation,” said Ministry of Home Affairs public relations manager, Nephas Chifuta.

“Unless a foreigner wants to stay in the country to invest or find employment, they are issued with specific type of documents such as employment or investment permits,” he added.

But hundreds of Mozambicans who live along the Zambian border told MakanDay that they were looking forward to voting in the 12 August elections.

A MakanDay journalist crossed into Mozambique through Kashende, a makeshift crossing point to meet some of the voters at Chimwala Village in Chief Chimwala’s chiefdom about three kilometres from the Zambian border. Chimwala is a village adjoining Kapoche constituency in Sinda district in Eastern Province.Other villages in Mozambique where foreigners were registered in Chimwala chiefdom are Siliya, Wiziyon, Makumba, Kamigodi, Chakana, Sambani, Msusa, Bizeck and Mwaluza.

One traditional leader in Mozambique told MakanDay he and a small number of his people were issued with national registration and voters’ cards by some ruling party members whom he could not name.

The cost of living is high, we have no medicine in hospitals, and the price of fertilizer has gone up making our lives very difficult,” said one of the voters whose name has been withheld to protect his identity. “People are not voting for them even though they entered Mozambique to campaign and gave people their campaign materials,” he added.

Many people from Mozambique who live along the border depend on Zambia for their education, health, and other basic services. One of the nearest hospitals is Nyanje Mission run by the Reformed Church in Zambia.

Headman Chimwala confirmed that more than 800 people from about 15 villages in Mozambique were issued with national registration cards and registered as voters. He said arrangements were made to ferry people to Zambia on the day of voting.

“People are upset and disappointed with PF, they do not want them to continue… even if they forced us to obtain NRCs and also registered us to vote,” he said.

He disclosed that it is the first time that people from his area have been registered to vote in Zambia. He also said his people were given strict instructions to vote for the ruling party if they are to continue accessing social amenities in Zambia.

“The fear of not having access to health services… is what made us to register as voters, because most of us get these services in Zambia,” he said.

Although opposition and independent candidates who took part in the election accused the ruling party of recruiting foreign voters, some of the candidates travelled to those villages to campaign.Sinda District Commissioner Paradious Sakala told Makanday the workers who were issuing NRCs cannot take the blame because it is difficult to tell the difference between Zambians and Mozambicans because they belong to the same ethnic group and they speak the same language.

“As people go to collect their NRCs and they produce birth certificates, you cannot begin to dispute that look this certificate is not Zambian,” he said. “So, it’s not something that the officers who were issuing NRCs could be blamed for,” he added.

On 11 February this year, Former Home Affairs Minister Stephen Kampyongo told the national assembly that no NRCs were issued to non-eligible persons and foreigners during the mobile issuance of NRC’S.

Delivering a ministerial statement refuting the purported issuance of NRCs to non-eligible persons, Mr Kampyongo said: “It is disheartening to note that there are some individuals who were claiming that government was issuing NRC’S to underage children and foreigners.”

He also said: “such misinformation and propaganda were orchestrated to discredit the government”.

However, election irregularities involving the registration of foreign voters is not new and appears to be a permanent feature of Zambian elections. The previous 2016 elections were similarly marred by the appearance of large numbers of foreign voters on the electoral roll.

In its characteristic fashion, the ECZ dismissed the concerns despite compelling evidence published by The Post of the names and identity numbers of Malawians who had registered to vote.

The commission insisted that voters are registered on the presumption that they meet the prescribed voting age, based on their national registration card. The card is issued by the Ministry of Home Affairs’ department of national registration, passports and citizenship.

MakanDay’s reporter was able to verify the names and identities of a number of Mozambicans who had succeeded in obtaining Zambian national registration cards and voters cards. Furthermore, the particulars on their Mozambican identity documents matched the names on their Zambian registration and voters’ documents. They include the following:

A male voter whose name on his Zambia national registration card is given as Sailota Phiri with card number Z15810220 issued on 6 October 2020 and his voters’ card gives his address as Kondwelani village, registered to vote at Dwangwi polling station.

The same man was issued with a Mozambican voters’ card by Mozambique’s National Commission for Elections. His Mozambican name was given as Sairota Aloni Iacobo, resident at Nsunsa in Maravia, Tete province.

Naomi Phiri was also in possession of both Zambian and Mozambican identity documents, including an NRC, a Zambian voters’ card and a Mozambican voters card. The NRC card number is Z16485825, of Kalinda village in Sinda. The card was issued on 21 September 2020. Her residential address was given as Kalinda village and she was registered to vote at Dwangwi polling station. Also in her possession was a voters’ card issued by Mozambique’s National Commission for Elections.

Another Mozambican female voter is named as Eunice Banda on her Zambian voters’ card, issued on 19 November 2020. Her polling station is given as Kondwelani School. Her Mozambican ID gives her names as Yunisi Aiwero, born 6 June 1982 and resident at Sambani, Maravia in Tete province.

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