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Tuesday, 19 May 2009

Diaspora electoral registration ?

I couldn't resist the chuckle when I read this statement in The Post yesterday :

Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) chairperson Justice Florence Mumba has said continuous voters’ registration will begin this year and plans are underway to include Zambians living in the Diaspora... She said in the longer term, the ECZ would be working on a programme for Zambians living in the Diaspora to see how they could be included in deciding the affairs of the country.

“On this process, we are learning how it should be done and we learned from South Africa how they did last month and we will also learn from Mozambique how they will do it later this year, we are doing this because we want to understand the successes and challenges that go with this process and how it can be successfully implemented in Zambia,” Justice Mumba said. “There are many Zambians that should participate in deciding the affairs of this country hence giving them an opportunity to vote as well. For example, in the United Kingdom alone, we have many Zambians who are eager but do not participate in the country’s affairs but they still get affected by whatever decisions that are made here.”
Justice Mumba is getting ahead of herself.  You can't have registration of the Diaspora without agreeing whether the idea of the diaspora voting actually makes philosophical and economic sense. The NCC have rejected the idea of Diaspora voting, although that body which no one understands what it does, the Zambia Inter Party Dialogue, voiced some support.   For the record, I have not changed my position on Diaspora voting. It is not necessary and it is a waste of scarce resources. If the Diaspora want to vote, they should fund the exercise.  Also I think our Foreign Ministry is so corrupt that I would any trust electoral outcome that is held at any of our embassies. Voting for voting sake is not socially optimal. 


  1. Can anyone clarify whether the Diaspora voting is permitted under current law? I am aware that Zambians overseas could vote in the Kaunda era. Did the law change or did it just become practically impossible?

    Also, if Zambians living abroad are “affected by whatever decisions that are made” in elections, what about non-Zambians living in Zambia? Surely, these are more directly affected. Seems to me (unrepentant internationalist that I am) that all contributing members of a community deserve representation. What’s the current law?

    Excuse my ignorance!

  2. Dominic,

    Overall the law is somewhat circular (i.e. in order to register as a voter you must be in possession of a national registration card). I think that the "continuous registration" process is partially designed to overcome this redundancy. Here are the sections which you may find relevant, and no, non-citizens cannot register as voters under the current law (Section 7b). Section 8a however does appear to allow for Diaspora voting, provided that the individual can obtain a national registration card. Hope this helps!

    Unofficial working copy of the Electoral Act, 2006.
    Copies of the official Act may be obtained from the Government Printer.
    PO Box 30136. 10101 Lusaka.

    5. Subject to the provisions of section seven, every person shall be qualified for registration as a voter in direct elections who -

    (a) is a citizen of Zambia;
    (b) has attained the age of eighteen years; and
    (c) is in possession of a national registration card.

    6. A person applying for registration as a voter -

    (a) shall do so in the manner prescribed by the Commission; and
    (b) may register in any constituency of the person's choice; Provided that the person shall not register in more than one constituency.

    7. (1) No person shall be qualified for registration as a voter, and no person shall be registered as a voter, who -

    (a) is under a declaration of allegiance to some country other than Zambia;
    (b) is not a citizen of Zambia;
    (c) has applied for registration fraudulently or otherwise than in the prescribed manner;
    (d) under any law in force in Zambia, is adjudged or otherwise declared to be of unsound mind, or is detained under the Criminal Procedure Code during the pleasure of the President;
    (e) is disqualified from voting under section nineteen;
    (f) is under sentence of death imposed by any court in Zambia, or a sentence of imprisonment imposed by such a court or substituted by any competent authority for some other sentence imposed by such a court; or
    (g) is not in possession of a national registration card.

    (2) In this section, the reference to a sentence of imprisonment shall be construed as not including a sentence of imprisonment the execution of which is suspended or a sentence of imprisonment imposed in default of payment of a fine.

    8. (1) A person qualified for registration under section five and not disqualified for registration under section seven, shall be registered as a voter in the register of voters for any constituency of the person's choice, as may be prescribed.

    (2) A person's name shall not be entered in the voters register for more than once in any constituency.

    (3) A person's who has been registered in the register of voters shall be issued with a voter's card.

    (4) A voter's card shall contain -

    (a) the individual's

    (i) full names;
    (ii) residential address;
    (iii) sex;
    (iv) date of birth;
    (v) portrait; and

    (b) such other information as the Commission may prescribe.

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  4. Oops! That should have read as Section 7(1)b and Section 8(1) respectively [i will get it right eventually!] The whole document is available from the ECZ here:

  5. Cho,

    I agree with you on citing corruption on the part of the Ministry of Foreign affairs.

    But I beg to differ on the reasons of cost and necessity.

    On cost, well if we take into account the remittances to Zambia from the diaspora, it's not insignificant, despite being indirect revenue to govt.

    On necessity, in my view they are necessary and to illustrate, I think the Zambian diaspora vote would have easily swung the last Presidential by-election, had they been allowed.

    Agreed, it is difficult and costly, but I think it should be done at some point.

    "Voting for voting sake is not socially optimal."Precisely! And that's how I feel about the "Shaky-Shaky" politics currently dominating Zambian elections. The informed voter will never have their say, as things are.



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