Elita chikwati Senior Reporter—
AS the first phase of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) reaches midway, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has so far registered only 675 762 voters, which is 9,7 percent of the targeted 7 million voters. The first phase began on October 10 and will run until October 26. Latest ZEC statistics show that as at October 17, Mashonaland East had registered the most voters at 111 881, followed by Manicaland 109 607, Midlands 92 183 and Masvingo 84 642. In the period, ZEC officials in Mashonaland Central had captured 82 493, Harare 80 192, Mashonaland West 44 341, Matabeleland South 25 841, Matabeleland North 25 791 and Bulawayo 18 216.
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Incidentally, Harare — which has a relatively low figure of voters that have been processed so far and is ranked sixth out of the 10 provinces in terms of current registrations — has the highest number of people expected to register at 1,3 million. A total 15 973 people were turned away during the September 18 to October 9 period. Aspiring voters are being turned away for defaced national identification particulars, no IDs and failure to produce proof of residence, among other reasons.
In Masvingo, for example, some Tokwe Mukosi prospective registrants had no IDs, while others did not have proof of residence. In Manicaland, people were being turned away either for being aliens or not having their IDs. In Mashonaland Central Province, a large number was turned away for being non-citizens. ZEC, however, noted that there were communication hitches in getting updates from some “remote and inaccessible centres”, which, to some extent, could have affected the tallying of the overall figures.
“The figures show that there are no returns or submission from the 431 out of the 2 697 centres on October 17, at 4pm due to network and communication challenges. Figures from these remote and inaccessible centres are coming at different intervals as and when they manage to get the network or travel top accessible areas.
“Projected voter population figures are for 2018 and include aliens, foreigners and persons without identification particulars as well as people turning 18 in 2018. Under Zimbabwean law, voter registration is not compulsory,” said ZEC. But the figures registered so far represent 20 percent or a fifth of 3,4 million voters for the 2013 harmonised elections, which President Mugabe won by claiming 61 percent, or 2,1 million votes. ZANU-PF Harare political commissar Mr Shadreck Mashayamombe said that the challenge was not so much in the numbers turning up to vote, but the time that was being taken by ZEC to process prospective voters.
“We have seen people queuing very early buy ZEC only start to serve them well after 800 am. So you will find that at the end of the day they would have served fewer people than anticipated,” said Cde Mashayamombe. The issue of polling stations sited in wrong wards and constituencies, he said, was also causing delays. According to MDC-T secretary-general Mr Douglas Mwonzora, ZEC’s insistence on proof of residence and a commissioned affidavit was a major put-off for prospective registrants.
“There are very few commissioners of oath, who are also charging between 50c and $1 to commission an affidavit, while in rural areas the village heads are charging between 25c and $1. We know that our people do not have this money and will obviously opt to ignore the whole process, resulting in very few people successfully registering.
“This condition is not legally and logically sound because at the end of the day, people should vote from whereever they chose to,” said Mr Mwonzora. He added that 254 people failed to register in Dzivarasekwa yesterday because they did not have proof of residence in the required format. ZEC should take on the recommendation that every registration officer must be a temporary commissioner of oath so that the numbers of people in the voter register do not dwindle.
“If they do not do that, the register is going to shrink by a huge margin,” he said. But the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a non-Governmental organisation, commended ZEC for ensuring that every ward under phase one of the voter registration exercise has a functioning registration center and kit. ZESN, however, raised concern about the inordinate time ZEC was taking to register voters.
“ZEC is also making sure that kits in areas where there is low turnout are moved to areas with more traffic. However, ZEC should share this information with the public so that people know of these changes. The time taken to process a single registrant continues to take more time in most parts of the country beyond the four minutes per person targeted by ZEC.
“However, faster processing times have been recorded in places such as Epworth ward one, Epworth Primary School over 200 people were registered on the 16 October 2017,” said ZESN. nA high voter participation in the elections means the next Government that will be formed after the 2018 elections will have an overwhelming mandate from the people. ZEC has established 2 508 registration centres countrywide for the first phase of the exercise, which will last for 72 days. It will be done in four segments. The first phase runs from October 10 to 26, while the second phase will be done from October 29 to November 13. The third segment will take place between November 16 and December 1. The last phase will run from December 4 to 19.