JUNE 2021

The Permanent Secretaries;
Ministry of Health
Ministry of Local Government
Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
Staff of the Commission
Members of Press

Good morning everyone and welcome to briefing. It is always a pleasure to have you here at Elections House.

Yesterday, the Commission held a Political Parties Liaison Committee meeting which most of you here attended and covered as news on your various platforms. The Commission normally meets political parties as a special segment of our stakeholder universe on their own.

However, due to the nature of what we needed to communicate and in the spirit of transparency, we invited you media colleagues to be part of the proceedings. We believe such engagements need to be on public record and on various platforms so that it serves as a reference point.

As some of you may recall in yesterday’s meeting, the Commission collaborated with the Ministry of Health and together, we put up a spirited presentation on the COVID-19 situation in the country.

Just to remind all of you, the Commission has been consistent with its messaging on COVID-19 as it pertains to various stakeholders. Yesterday’s presentation augmented our initial messaging and engagements on Standard Operating Procedures which we shared with political parties about a month ago.

The Commission asked all political parties present to make their submissions specifically on whether campaign rallies which have been rated super spreaders of the Coronavirus should go on. We received mixed feedback as some were for rallies while others were not for rallies.

The Commission further engaged a cross-section of electoral stakeholders as it relates to Covid-19 including membership of the Technical Committee in line with the multi-sectoral approach to gather their views on the matter.

At this point, let me quickly run you through the membership of the Technical Committee:

1. Ministry of Health
2. Ministry of Local Government
3. Ministry of Education
4. Ministry of Information and Broadcasting
5. Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI)
6. Disaster Management and Mitigation Unit (OVP-DMMU)
7. Zambia Police Service (ZP)
8. Zambia Centre for Inter Party Dialogue (ZCID)
9. Media Institute for Southern Africa (MISA)
10. Water Aid
11. Electoral Commission of Zambia
The Electoral Commission of Zambia is leading the process.

The Commission listened to the presentations and deliberations advanced in these meetings. Having duly considered the submissions by the stakeholders, today we have come back with a position following these engagements on what we consider to be the best for the country, citizens and the conduct of the 12th August 2021 general election.

The Commission would like to guide as follows:

The Technical Committee through the Standard Operating Procedures had earlier discouraged the holding of political rallies. That given, with the expert advice from Ministry of Health on the current COVID-19 situation, the Technical Committee has reviewed the guidelines with due consideration of public health and has recommended the suspension of campaign rallies.

We would like to announce that the Commission is in support of this recommendation and has suspended campaign rallies with immediate effect. Important to note, it is the rallies that have been suspended and NOT campaigns.

We have done this within our jurisdiction as an independent body mandated to preside over all electoral matters in the country.

Additionally, we have taken this action following the increase in the number of COVID-19 cases in Zambia and the country has been in Alert State since March 2020.

Given the conduct of political parties and their lack of adherence to COVID-19 guidelines, we have a moral obligation to safeguard the lives of the people. We further need to ensure that the environment does not deteriorate to facilitate the conduct of elections impossible.

The Commission through engagements with the Technical Committee and Ministry of Health who is the authority in health matters, and in particular, COVID-19, will continue to monitor and review the situation and provide updates to the stakeholders.

Having said this, let me repeat our clarion call to political parties to take this matter seriously. We would like to remind all stakeholders that the issue at hand is a matter of life and death and must be approached with utmost caution. Political parties must exhibit resposible leadership and protect the lives of Zambians.

Let me take this opportunity to make a public call to citizens to refrain from attending political rallies and avoid large gatherings. As a Commission, we are concerned about your lives and we would like to see you turn up in large numbers to vote come August 12, 2020.

Political parties are futher guided to observe the five golden rules of COVID – 19 when holding indoor meetings and these are:

1. Mask up
2. Wash hands frequently or use hand sanitisers
3. Maintain physical distance
4. Avoid crowded places and stay at home
5. Seek medical attention early if symptomatic

Going forward, the Commission will urgently work with all political parties to conclude campaign schedules which will be shared with Zambia Police. The campaign schedules should be submitted to Electoral Commission and shared with Zambia Police for record and monitoring.

Political parties and other stakeholders should  use appropriate campaign strategies such as mobile public address system, distribution of flyers and other political party materials with minimal or no contact with a crowd.

Before I close, let me address you media colleagues about a very serious matter which if left unchecked poses a risk for the country. I am talking about misinformation. You are the fourth estate and such, you need to help in the provision of truthful and accurate information. We are living in times when most people and the country are leveraging technology in communicating and we know that this is faster and smarter way of sharing information.

As such, we need to handle information with utmost care.

Yesterday, fake news circulated online that the Electoral Commission of Zambia and Zambia National Public Health Institute may recommended postponement of elections in view of COVID-19. This does not in any way represent what was shared with the stakeholders and I’m sure by now, you are all aware that issues of elections are a constitutional matter and no one just wakes up to postponed an election. This issue has been blown out of context as we were simply advising stakeholders on the seriousness of the pandemic and the risk it poses to the elections.

Therefore, I would like to advise that the 2021 general election will go ahead as planned and every well-meaning Zambia must treat the circulated misinformation with the highest contempt.

If anything colleagues, take time to read and research, seek clarity on matters that may not be well understood. You have a duty to provide the nation with correct information

I thank you and now invite questions.

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