PARLIAMENT yesterday ratified the presidential appointment of Justice Essau Chulu (Rtd), and Dr. Emily Sikazwe to serve as chairperson and member of the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) respectively.
Also ratified was Mr Nixon Banda who will serve as member of the Judicial Complaints Authority (JCA).
Debating on the appointments, Choma Central Member of Parliament Cornelius Mweetwa said the appointment of Justice Chulu and Dr. Sikazwe to the ECZ could not have come at a better time than now when Zambia was preparing to go to the polls next year.
Mr. Mweetwa said that the duo’s vast experience with the commission would enable them discharge their duties professionally and in the best interest of Zambians.
Mr. Mweetwa called on the duo to be brave in their discharge of duties because the offices they were set to occupy came with a lot of responsibility, interference and pressure from political parties and that they should be prepared for such challenges that lay ahead of them.
“I have no doubt that their vast experience will help them deal with external pressures that come with the offices they are going to hold,
“However, I wish to remind them that they face a hurricane of interference from political parties which they will have to deal with from time to time, especially that we are going for elections next year,” said Mr. Mweetwa said.
Contributing to the same debate, Chongwe Member of Parliament Sylvia Masebo said there was need to expedite the process of the enactment of the new constitution to ensure that the ECZ operated independently, unlike the current situation where funding to the commission came from Government, thereby compromising its operations.
Ms Masebo observed that the indefinite suspension of the voter registration exercise was among some of the things that the new ECZ chairperson will have to deal with.
She said that the indefinite suspension of the exercise would have a negative impact on the operations of the commission since they would be racing against time especially that the current Constitution did not give specific dates for elections.
“The current constitution does not give a specific date on which elections can be held as that still remains a prerogative of the President who can call for elections any time. Even today, he can decide to dissolve parliament and call for elections in the next 90 days.
“This does not give room for ECZ to plan well since it does not have financial independence and this is the first issue that the new chairperson will have to deal with,” said Ms. Masebo said.
Meanwhile, Parliament yesterday heard that over 13,000 youths across Zamabia were arrested for drug related offences in the past five years.
Responding to a question from Mwinilunga Member of Parliament Stephen Katuka who wanted to know how many youths were arrested for drug-related offences from January 2011 to February 2015, country-wide, Home Affairs deputy minister Col. Panji Kaunda said over 13,000 youths were arrested, out of which over 1,000 were school-going children.
“I wish to report to this august House Mr. Speaker, that a total of 13,903 youths were arrested for drug-related offences and of these, 1,140 were school-going children, while a total of 10, 127 were convicted for the same offences,” Col. Kaunda said.
Col. Kaunda explained that drugs mostly abused among the youths were tobacco, cocaine, heroin, as well as alcohol.
He explained that in order to reduce the usage of drugs among youths in Zambia, DEC was engaged in community sensitisation programmes on the dangers of drugs on the lives of the people.