The Zambia Elections Information Centre (ZEIC), a project co-funded by Hivos Southern Africa and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA), has been monitoring the electoral process in Zambia. The overall goal of the project is to facilitate effective information management for a credible, peaceful, free and fair 2016 general election in Zambia, taking place on 11 August, 2016.
The ZEIC project is a multi-stakeholder platform that brings together key elections stakeholders drawn from civil society, independent management bodies, church mother bodies, development partners and political parties to work together on elections observation, monitoring, rapid response and proactive advocacy ahead of the general elections in Zambia.
The project was established to provide timely and relevant information on the election situation across the country through an ICT- based communication platform (http://zambiavote2016.org). ZEIC is also on Twitter (@ZEIC_2016) and Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/ZEIC2016/). The ZEIC secretariat is hosted by Panos Institute Southern Africa (PSAF).
Elections are key to the strengthening and growth of democracy because they provide a platform for popular involvement, which gives democracy its legitimacy and credibility. Elections must be credible to ensure peace and political stability and avoid civil unrest.
Elections in Zambia have often been characterized by speculations about logistical issues that would affect voting, vote counting and general vote safety. Delays in receiving information, validating it and transmitting it to the relevant duty bearers, which in turn cause delays in addressing the situations that arise during the electoral process, inevitably raise doubts about the credibility and fairness of the elections.
The ZEIC seeks to respond to this problem by setting up an innovative way of generating timely information, verification and analysis, as well as timely dissemination to relevant stakeholders, to stimulate rapid response reactions.
In the lead up to the elections, the Zambia Elections Information Centre successfully hosted an interactive online summit on 5 August 2016. The session allowed the public to put forward questions which were answered by a panel of representatives from some key players in the electoral process.
On the panel were Joyce Kasosa of the Zambia Police Service, Rebecca Mulengwa Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC), Human Rights Commission and Mr. Crispin Akufuna from Electoral Commission Zambia (ECZ) and Chibuta of the Zambia National Women’s Lobby.
The public sent in questions using the Twitter hashtag #ZEICSummit. The Q&A session from 9:30 to 12:00 fielded a wide range of questions and allowed people to hear back directly from those who handle various aspects of the electoral process.
Questions ranged from concerns over security on Election Day to procedures to report electoral malpractices, as well as many other issues. This conveniently timed, accessible online chat seamlessly bridged the gap between the ordinary citizen and organisations responsible for managing the electoral process .