ZAFOD Nominates Pick n’ Pay as Champions

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ZAFOD nominated Pick n’ Pay in Zambia as a private sector entity that has demonstrated disability inclusiveness or mainstreaming in their respective countries, as part of the Disability Champions Award presented at SAFOD’s Gala Dinner held on 23rd June 2017.

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Preliminary Statement on the Observation of the 2021 General Elections

13 August 2021

  1. Summary

The Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) observed both the pre-election environment and election day processes in 60 districts across all 10 provinces of Zambia as part of the organization’s thematic observation of the 2021 general elections. In the pre-election period, ZAFOD deployed 20 long-term observers (two per province) and for election day, ZAFOD deployed 74 short-term observers as well as 20 mobile observers to polling stations across the country. The short-term observers, all of whom were duly accredited by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), arrived at their assigned polling station and polling stream at 05:30 hours and remained there throughout the polling station setup and opening, voting, and counting until the official results for all electoral races for the entire polling station were publicly announced and posted. The goal of ZAFOD’s thematic observation of the 2021 elections was to assess the accessibility of electoral processes for persons with disabilities andto make elections more transparent by providing systematic factual information on the conduct of the process, with a particular focus on the inclusion of persons with disabilities.

While ZAFOD welcomes the incremental progress that has been made by the ECZ, political parties and other electoral stakeholders over the last two electoral cycles to improve the accessibility of elections, ZAFOD notes with concern that the organisation’s initial observation findings indicate that electoral processes in Zambia remain inaccessible for many persons with disabilities, undermining the right to equal participation and in contravention of the Government of Zambia’s legal obligations under domestic and international law.

  1. Accessibility and Elections in Zambia

September 2021 will mark the ten year anniversary of the landmark Sela Brotherton vs. ECZ court case, in which the High Court ruled that persons with disabilities were being unlawfully discriminated against and prevented from freely exercising their right to vote due to the inaccessibility of polling stations, and that the ECZ must implement measures to remedy this. The ruling stipulated that, among other actions, the ECZ should install ramps, ensure that polling stations are located on the ground floor and in places that are accessible for persons with disabilities, and provide a tactile ballot guide for voters who are blind or visually impaired. The ECZ was also required to develop a detailed action plan and budget for the 2016 elections to ensure the equal participation of persons with disabilities.

In 2016, ZAFOD took part in election observation under the umbrella of the Foundation for Democratic Process (FODEP) observation activities. As noted in the 2016 final observation report of the EU Election Observation Mission (EU EOM), “ZAFOD commended ECZ for its efforts to increase accessibility,” including moving polling stations to the first floor and installing ramps in some locations. As a result, the EU EOM assessed that 72 percent of polling stations were accessible for persons with disabilities. However, the report also noted several shortcomings, including inadequate voter education for persons with disabilities, and a lack of sign language interpretation during voter registration.

Unfortunately, despite the progress made between the 2011 Brotherton ruling and the 2016 general elections, ZAFOD’s observation of the 2021 general elections found that the measures in place to ensure the equal participation of persons with disabilities have not improved since 2016 and, in some areas, have worsened. While directly comparable data between 2016 and 2021 is not available, 62 percent of ZAFOD observers reported that the observed polling stations were accessible for persons with disabilities in 2021, a decrease from the EU EOM’s assessment of 72 percent of polling stations being accessible in 2016. ZAFOD also notes that, unlike in 2016, no action plan or budget was publicly released by the ECZ for the 2021 general elections, which reduced transparency and the ability of civil society organizations to provide feedback and oversight on accommodations for persons with disabilities.

  1. Select Observation Findings

Pre-Election Environment

ZAFOD’s observation of the pre-election environment found that persons with disabilities were relatively well-represented in voter education and campaign activities, with 68 percent of long-term observers reporting having witnessed or heard about voter education activities targeting persons with disabilities by the ECZ. 48 percent of ZAFOD observers also witnessed or heard of distribution of voter education materials in accessible format for persons with disabilities. In addition, 30 percent of long-term observers reported campaign messages and materials targeting persons with disabilities by PF, 22 percent reported similar messages and materials by UPND, and 14 percent reported messages and materials by other political parties.

ZAFOD welcomed the fact that at least 12 candidates on the ballot on August 12, including four at the parliamentary level, were persons with disabilities. However, these candidates reported facing stigma and 15 percent of ZAFOD long-term observers reported hearing threatening, abusive or insulting language towards candidates with disabilities. In one case a candidate also noted that he has received little to no support from his nominating party as compared to other candidates without disabilities in his party. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused challenges for all candidates during the campaign period, the temporary ban on road shows and rallies placed an additional hardship on candidates with mobility disabilities, as moving door-to-door to campaign was difficult for them.

Election Day Processes

ZAFOD observers reported that election day processes at the 74 observed polling stations largely followed established electoral procedures for setup and voting, with all polling stations observed opening no later than 06:30 am. All 74 observed polling stations were equipped with permanent/indelible ink for marking voters’ fingers, official stamps for marking ballot papers, and voters’ registers. At all 74 polling stations the presidential ballot box was shown to be empty at the start of voting. Party agents for the Patriotic Front (PF) and United Party for National Development (UPND) were reported to be present at 73 of the 74 polling stations, and party agents representing parties other than PF and UPND were present at 66 of the 74 polling stations.

COVID-19 Measures

ZAFOD observers reported a high level of adherence to COVID-19 mitigation measures among polling station officials, specifically the use of face masks and sanitizer. 97 percent of observed polling stations had hand washing or sanitizing facilities available. However, social distancing was less rigorously adhered to, in part due to the long queues of voters at many polling stations. In addition, only 10 of the 74 polling stations were reported to have a thermometer/thermo scanner to check voters’ temperatures upon entry. Nine observers reported that “a few” (one to five) or “some” (six to ten) voters were turned away for non-adherence to COVID-19 protocols.

Participation of PWDs as Party Agents and Citizen Observers

ZAFOD observers reported six persons with disabilities serving as party agents at observed polling stations, and seven persons with disabilities serving as citizen observers for organizations other than ZAFOD. ZAFOD also notes that the ECZ has taken steps to increase the number of persons with disabilities serving as polling station staff. ZAFOD applauds the inclusion of persons with disabilities as polling officials, party agents and citizen observers, and urges political parties and civil society groups to continue to intentionally recruit and encourage the participation of persons with disabilities in these important roles.

Accessibility of Polling Station Locations

Among the 74 polling stations observed, the majority (85 percent) were located in schools, primarily in classrooms (74 percent). Observers reported that nearly two-thirds of observed polling stations (62 percent) posed some difficulty to entry for persons with disabilities. 49 percent of observed polling stations required voters to go up steps or stairs to enter the polling station.[1] Only 16 percent of observed polling stations (12 sites) had ramps, three percent (two sites) had handrails installed, and seven percent (five sites) had both. Nearly three-quarters of observed polling stations (74 percent) had no ramps or handrails to assist persons with mobility disabilities to enter or move through the polling station. 42 percent of observed polling station locations reported additional barriers that hindered entry for persons with disabilities, including sand, gutters, corridors that are difficult to navigate in wheelchairs, or other/multiple barriers.

Voting Processes for PWDs

Persons with disabilities voted at 99 percent of observed polling stations. ZAFOD observers reported that sign language instructions or procedures were provided at 34 percent of polling stations observed and that election day procedures for persons with disabilities were posted at 64 percent of locations observed. Braille ballot jackets for blind voters were available at 43 percent of polling stations observed.[2] ZAFOD staff serving as roving monitors in Lusaka also reported poor sensitization among polling officials regarding the use of braille jackets. A large majority of observers (85 percent) reported that the ballot boxes in the interior of observed polling stations were accessible for persons with disabilities to independently cast their vote, although 26 percent noted that the height of the ballot boxes was not suitable for wheelchair users. 85 percent of observers also reported that persons with disabilities were assisted to vote, including by ECZ officials, security officials, and polling agents.

  1. Incidents

ZAFOD received a total of 26 critical incident reports on election day, of which seven have been confirmed so far. The critical incident reports confirmed by ZAFOD included violence, harassment or intimidation at polling stations, attempted stealing of election materials, and a polling official who was taking pictures of voters cards and NRC. 

Two of ZAFOD’s observers were also unable to fully complete their reporting due to disruptions at polling stations in Lusaka and Southern provinces. In the incident in Southern province, the ZAFOD observer was barred from re-entering the polling station with her observation forms due to suspicion among voters in the queue of carrying pre-filled ballots, and was subsequently harassed and felt unsafe to remain at the polling station. In the other incident, in Lusaka province, party cadres disrupted the counting process and although the situation was eventually resolved by police, the observer did not feel safe to remain at the polling station.

  1. Conclusion

ZAFOD calls on all stakeholders, particularly the ECZ, political parties, and other electoral actors, to redouble efforts to enhance the accessibility and inclusion of persons with disabilities in political and electoral processes. Particular attention is needed to ensure that all polling stations are adequately accessible for persons with disabilities and that accessible voting materials, such as braille jackets, are widely available and are well sensitized among polling officials. ZAFOD further calls for greater transparency and stakeholder engagement on the part of the ECZ with regards to the development of future action plans and budgets for accessibility. ZAFOD continues to welcome and encourage political parties and other stakeholders to support the inclusion of persons with disabilities at all levels of party structures and in all political and electoral processes, including as candidates, party leaders, voter educators, party agents, and citizen observers. 

ZAFOD will issue detailed stakeholder recommendations as part of the final observation report.

  1. About ZAFOD

The Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) is the national civil society umbrella body of over 15 affiliate member organisations of and for persons with disabilities in Zambia. Since the early 1980s, ZAFOD has been advocating for the promotion and protection of disability rights and the inherent dignity of persons with disabilities, including advocacy for the observance of rights to political and public participation of persons with disabilities through inclusive and accessible electoral processes.

More information on ZAFOD can be found at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter at @ZAFOD_Zm.

[1] The Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG) reported in the group’s preliminary statement on the 2021 elections that 48 percent of the group’s 1500 observed polling sites required voters to go up stairs or steps.

[2] CCMG reported in the group’s preliminary statement that 44 percent of the group’s 1500 observed polling stations had Braille jackets.


AUGUST 24, 2021

For Immediate Release

Vice-Chairperson Mr. Paul Mbew – ZAFOD

The Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations (ZAFOD) and the Disability Rights Watch (DRW) wish to convey heartfelt congratulatory remarks to the newly sworn-in 7th President of the Republic of Zambia, His Excellency Mr. Hakainde Hichilema. We take recognition and draw inspiration from your commitment to the governance of this great nation by rule of law and with respect for human rights. We also wish to applaud the Zambian people of Zambia for turning up in their masses to uphold our ever-growing democratic culture which has made Zambia the envy of the region and indeed the world. Mr. President, your inaugural speech at the National Heroes Stadium was inspiring especially on your pledge to run a more inclusive government. Our desire as persons with disabilities, for such a government, cannot be overemphasized.Our country is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), which was domesticated under the disability act No. 6 of 2012. Over the years, several pronouncements have been made by successive governments claiming to commit themselves to the disability course, and yet to date no meaningful change has been realized. We only hope that the UPND government will facilitate the implementation of the UNCRPD through the disability act No. 6 of 2012.Your Excellence, you may also wish to know that Zambia was part of the Global Disability Summit in 2018 hosted by the United Kingdom, where some commitments on disability issues were made. It is disheartening to bring to your attention that none of the commitments have been fulfilled to date; another hindrance to addressing challenges faced by Persons with Disabilities in Zambia. Matters pertaining to persons with disabilities have over the years ended with pronouncements and have never been supported with meaningful actions. It is this kind of approach and inertia from those who govern our nation that has continued to widen the gap between persons with disabilities and the rest of the Zambians in terms of opportunities, inclusion, and meaningful participation in national development. Persons with disabilities have continued to be an after-thought in our development agenda. One of our major expectations is that you will be keen to deliberately include, among your appointments, persons with disabilities who are suitably qualified to serve as nominated Members of parliament as article 69 of the Zambian constitution allows you to do so, and it reads69. (1) The President may nominate a person referred to in Article 68 (2) (b) where the President considers it necessary to enhance the representation of special interests, skills, or gender in the National Assembly. 259(1)(c)Where a person is empowered to make a nomination or an appointment to a public office, that person shall ensure— (c) equitable representation of the youth and persons with disabilities, where these qualify for nomination or appointment., Permanent Secretaries, District Commissioners, Ambassadors/High Commissioners, and indeed other constitutional appointments. We hope you could go down in history as the first President to demonstrate inclusivity in Governance, in practical ways.………………………………………………………………………..

Vice Chairperson Grace Nkhuwa – DRW

It will be very important for the new government to prioritize the building of consensus around the Constitution to allow for an electoral system that will affirmatively provide for effective self-representation of persons with disabilities, women, and the youth in the governance structures of the country. Currently, as persons with disabilities, we feel dejected, un-Zambian, and largely left behind.We expect the UPND government to adequately address the systemic marginalization and exclusion of persons with disabilities from public life. If this systemic exclusion and marginalization is left unchecked, it will continue to hinder not only the full realization of human rights but also the unity of the nation and could potentially dilute your efforts in uniting this country and creating equal opportunities for every citizen. Mr. President, as you begin to establish an independent electoral commission of Zambia, we would like to draw your attention to the High Court judgment (Sela Brotherton versus ECZ) in which ECZ was ordered to provide for an inclusive electoral process. We strongly believe that you will commit to the actualization of this process. We further appeal to all political parties to ensure inclusivity in their party structures, manifestos, and adoptions of candidates. We appeal to the media to play a pivotal role in raising awareness on the rights and special needs of persons with disabilities, and that “disability is not inability!”As we conclude, we wish to appeal to the general public, to the consciences of our fellow citizens, to embrace and accept persons with disabilities as diversity in humanity. We are not objects of sympathy and medical care but subjects of engagement and meaningful participation in national development. Respect for the rights and dignity of every citizen is extremely important if our young democracy is to thrive and benefit all Zambians. We wish to remind you fellow citizens that disability is a cross-cutting issue, and that every human is potentially a person with a disability! Therefore, it calls for every one of us to take it upon ourselves to raise the message of non-discrimination against persons with disabilities. Once again, Congratulations your Excellency on your resounding victory as the 7th President of the Republic of Zambia. May God bless and guide you as you lead this great nation. To all stakeholders, we say: Think development…Think disability…if there is no disability inclusion then there is no true democracy and development. God bless you all thank you!


Zambia Federation of Disability Organizations (ZAFOD)

Disability Rights Watch (DRW)


ZAFOD calls on the ECZ to allow correction of disability type during the Voters’ register inspection period and to take stronger action to ensure accessibility of inspection centres and polling stations to persons with disabilities.

LUSAKA – 9 February 2021. The Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) calls upon the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) to allow voters to review and correct, if necessary, their disability status during the voters’ register inspection period. This request is based on ZAFOD’s findings from its select observation of voter registration, where ZAFOD observers noted that disability types were not consistently registered.

“Although ZAFOD applauds the ECZ for incorporating the registration of disability type into the voter registration exercise, ZAFOD notes with concern that ECZ officials failed to consistently record voters’ disability type, with some ECZ officers recording only disabilities that they themselves assessed such as the visually impaired and those with physical disabilities. Therefore, the register will not reflect the correct disability type of a voter in all cases, which limits the ECZ to provide reasonable accommodation on the Election Day. ZAFOD calls on the ECZ to allow for the correction of disability type during the inspection period and for the ECZ to publicise correction will be allowed so that persons with disabilities can ensure that their disability information is accurately captured”, ZAFOD Federal Director Justine Bbakali said.  

ZAFOD’s observers also noted that multiple registration centres visited were not accessible to those with physical disabilities, requiring voters to go up steps or presenting other obstacles to accessing voter registration. These findings, as well as ZAFOD’s concerns on the lack of systematic and complete recording of voters’ disability types are consistent with the nationwide observation findings published by the Christian Churches Monitoring Group (CCMG).

ZAFOD further calls on the ECZ to undertake an analysis of accessibility of venues that will serve as inspection centres and polling stations and undertake adequate measures to make all of these venues fully accessible to persons with disabilities, so they can freely participate in the voter register inspection exercise and in casting their votes on Election Day.

On December 20, 2020, the Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) deployed four members of its Technical Working Group, who were duly accredited by the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ), to eight selected registration centres in three Lusaka constituencies (Kabwata, Kanyama and Chawama Constituencies), following the extension of the voter registration period to monitor the voter registration extension exercise.


Issued by:

Justine Bbakali

Federal Director- ZAFOD

Tel. 0977785099


Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) –, Zambia Federation of Disability Organisations (ZAFOD) on Facebook, @ZAFOD_Zm on Twitter – Statement on the Accessibility of Voter Registration and Inspection – 9 February 2021


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