Paidamoyo Chipunza Senior Reporter
Transfer and transmission of data from wards to district centres during the biometric voter registration (BVR) was largely free of irregularities, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), has said.
ZESN’s observation process, which started at the commencement of the registration and ended last week, allays fears from opposition parties that data could be tampered with either at collection or transfer stage. The latest ZESN report also reinforced assurances by President Emmerson Mnangagwa that the forthcoming elections would be free and fair.
“At most centres where data transfer was observed, the handover process from the ward supervisor to the district level supervisor was largely free from irregularities and was done in accordance with laid down procedures,” noted ZESN in its BVR update report number 14.
The non-governmental organisation said there were a few irregularities noted during the process, which it described as not of a serious nature, which it attributed to difference in skill and knowledge acquired by the registration officers during training.
“For instance, at Jameson High School in Mashonaland West, which was the designated district centre, some of the registration teams from the registration centres could be seen completing the modalities of the packaging of flash disks into tamper-proof envelopes at the district centres with their ward supervisors,” said ZESN.
“At Danda Primary, Ward 3 in Zaka North, ZESN observed the data export process. The transfer procedures were completed in accordance with the laid down procedures, with registration officials exporting registration data for phase 4 on to USB drives. A print out of the statistics was also made, a copy of which was attached to one of the forms which contained the same statistics.”
ZESN further noted that a ZEC supervisor would then sign forms acknowledging receipt of the flash disk, which was put in a grey tamper-proof envelope for onward transmission to the district offices. The same procedure, according to ZESN, was conducted at Rudhanda Primary School in Zaka East, Ward 25 and the only slight difference was that the registration officials had to wait for their supervisor before commencing the date export process.
It said at Matinunura A and B in Mkoba Ward 10 in Gweru, the registration officials were informed by the supervisor that they could only do the data transfer in her presence.
“The variations which ZESN noted with regards to how closely registration officials followed the data transfer procedures may be explained by the varying uptake of skills and knowledge during the training. However, the inconsistencies were not of a serious nature as ZESN observers did not find any evidence suggesting manipulation of registration data,” said ZESN.
Although the BVR excessive was criticised by opposition parties, particularly on security issues with regards to accessing the voter register database and multiple registration, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) maintained that the process was secure.
According to ZEC, the process begins with collection of data in the field, which is then saved on tamper proof flash drives. All the information is then consolidated into one server, housed at ZEC headquarters in Harare. At this server, ZEC will then use the Automated Finger Identification System, which will weed out people who could have registered more than once.
The BVR exercise ended on 19 December with over 4,7 million people registered to vote against an initial target of 7,2 million voters. ZEC has since appealed for additional funding to the tune of $8 million to extend the registration process by another month to capture prospects who missed the deadline.