Farirai Machivenyika Senior Reporter—
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has allayed fears that voter registration will end on January 15, saying President Mugabe’s proclamation which mentioned the date sought to give legal validity to the creation of a new voters’ roll. ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said this in an interview yesterday while giving the commission’s state of preparedness ahead of the voter registration exercise.
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“It was (President’s proclamation) to give legal validity to the commencement of a new voter registration exercise and you will notice he has proclaimed a period of four months which are commencing on the 14th of September to the 15th of January,” she said.
“This is the maximum period. What is commencing now (on Thursday) is the continuous voter registration exercise which the law obliges us to carry out.
“We have actually been taken to court by some concerned citizens who have said ZEC is not carrying out continuous voter registration and our answer has always been as soon as we are ready, we will commence.
“Now we feel we are ready to and we will do so and we shall commence the continuous voter registration exercise, which should happen routinely.
“But the blitz for the 2018 elections will start middle of October and it will run up to the date that the President has proclaimed for the purposes of us coming up with a new voters’ roll parallel to that and after the blitz, continuous voter registration will continue to run.
“So, it’s starting now and it will run together with the blitz. It will continue after the blitz and it will continue as the law demands. The voters’ roll for the 2018 elections will close 12 days after nomination, but it will now be the continuous voter registration exercise not the blitz.”
Justice Makarau said ZEC was prepared for the voter registration exercise and expected to register seven million voters.
“Yes, we are prepared,” she said.
“We have received 400 kits, part of which we have been using for training the master training and technicians.
“We will still need some of those kits to train the 8 500 operators that we will require for the blitz, but there are a few that we will use at our district offices. As you know, we have 63 districts in the country and we will be conducting voter registration at these offices again in line with our constitution and in line with the electoral laws to be always registering.
“Voter registration, as you know in Zimbabwe, is continuous. We are going to commence our continuous voter registration on the 14th which is on Thursday, but we will have our blitz or the outreach programme or the intensive voter registration exercise when we have the 2 600 kits next month.
“We then start the blitz, the outreach programme up to the end of December where in addition to the static (stations) we will go mobile and go to where the people are.”
Justice Makarau said they had already submitted a $15 million budget to Treasury for the voter registration exercise.
She urged political parties that had concerns on the voter registration centres to approach their offices with suggestions to ensure no one was prejudiced of the right to register to vote.
“There is still a standing invitation to them (political parties) to come and tell us how many more voter registration centres they want us to open and where in particular they want us to open them,” she said.
Justice Makarau urged people not to confuse the ongoing mobile registration exercise by the Registrar General’s Office with voter registration.
“There should not be any confusion because the RG is only facilitating for people to get their identity documents which will enable them to register as voters,” she said. “We encourage people to come and register.
“We as ZEC, will do our best to ensure that we reach each and every eligible voter wherever they may be by the 28th of December 2017. But those who would have missed our blitz are free to approach our static or district registration offices to continue registering until the elections are called.”