70 percent registered to vote: ZEC Mr Utloile Silaigwana

Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter

More than 70 percent of Zimbabweans eligible to vote have registered and are already on the voters roll, the chief elections officer of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Mr Utoile Silaigwana, has told Parliament.

He said those trying to cheat the system were being picked up and thwarted.

The ultra-modern biometric registration system had nailed those trying to register more than once, apparently trying to collect incentives being offered by some non-governmental organisations and civic society groups who were mobilising people to register to vote.

Mr Silaigwana was last Thursday giving oral evidence before Parliament’s portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, chaired by Makoni South MP Cde Misheck Mataranyika (Zanu PF), had invited ZEC and other units and entities under the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to hear their views on what they had been allocated next year in the Budget.

While ZEC’s system, said Mr Silaigwana, had been flushing out the multiple applicants, but this was not before the NGOs and civic society organisations had made noise accusing ZEC of registering fewer people than applied. 

He said some machines ZEC used in remote areas might not be online at the time of application and the anomaly would only be picked when the information had been transmitted to district offices.

“We have discovered most of them are already on the voters roll. Perhaps they were mobilised. You will find that because we are not online at the point of registration, then they have to export that information of the registrants.

“But when this gets into the system that is when we see that we have registered 30 percent of those who have applied. I do not know whether this is because there are incentives that are given to voters,” he said.

“Countrywide, if you look at the statistics of the census, we have registered over 70 percent of people. If you go by province, I know that in Matabeleland North province, we have registered over 82 percent of the potential voters. 

“So strictly speaking the number of people who are not registered in the country but who are eligible, there are around 30 percent or less.”

The census figures would give ZEC the numbers of citizens aged 18 or over and who are resident in Zimbabwe, the criteria to register as a voter. The actual names of those citizens cannot come from the census as that information is confidential, but ZEC, along with everyone else, can find out how many adult citizens live in each province, district and urban area.

Although the pre-delimitation blitz was completed, any resident adult citizen not on the roll can register at any time and is allowed to vote in the next election or by-election for their area right up to the last few weeks before the poll.

Mr Silaigwana said there was need for financial support for ZEC to carry out intensive voter education to ensure that people were empowered with information and civic rights. Voter education was a factor that anchored stability in a country. If people were armed with information, that might help in reducing conflict.

“One of the issues we have seen over the years is that if we do not conduct effective voter education several things will come up. This country needs stability more than anything else for growth to take place. 

“If our people are voter educated to understand their constitutional rights as far as voting is concerned they will tolerate different views and public opinion in terms of their political standing and then that will reduce the conflict in the country,” said Mr Silaigwana.

“We think that voter education empowers people to think rationally and also reduce issues that might cause some misunderstanding within our communities. 

“So if we do not have enough money in that regard it means instead of having six people for voter education in a ward we might have two. Some of our wards stretches to 100km and if we have seven days, for example for the process, it becomes very difficult.”

The engagement of stakeholders away from election periods was critical so people would be thinking objectively as polls approached, hence the need to continuously fund ZEC even in times when there were no elections.

“We believe that because of results and issues that emerge in different engagements, we need to be capacitated so that we engage more particularly off election periods. That is when people tend to listen better. During election periods, self-centredness, personalities and temperatures will be high,” he said.

The $101 billion allocated to ZEC in the 2023 Budget would 68 percent of requirements.

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