Zvamaida Murwira Senior Reporter
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has unearthed a scam in which some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and civil society organisations (CSOs) are providing incentives to hundreds of people to register to vote ahead of the March 26 by-elections and 2023 harmonised elections, resulting in the people making multiple registrations for them to access the money.
This was exposed after ZEC’s ultra-modern biometric registration system, which among other things enables fingerprint mapping, picked that many people had registered many times.
The election management body’s system eventually flushed out those people as multiple applicants, but this was not before the NGOs and CSOs had made noise accusing ZEC of registering fewer people.
Those who participated in the scam did not disclose to the NGOs that they were already registered to vote but instead moved from one organisation to another getting incentives in return for making an application as a voter.
This was revealed by ZEC chairperson, Justice Priscilla Chigumba in an interview with Zimpapers Television Network (ZTN) yesterday.
She was responding to issues raised by some NGOS on why ZEC had registered fewer people in 2021.
“I will say this without fear. There were a lot of people who were given incentives to register to vote and those people did not disclose to the NGOs and CSOs that they were already registered to vote in order to access the incentives.
“I am not implying, but saying this directly because they were then flagged by our system to say there is a person with one set of fingerprints who registered six times to vote, but they were already on the voters roll,” said Justice Chigumba.
“Our system, if you registered ten times it will only recognise one file. It will only say there is one registrant, you then come to me saying we registered 260 people to vote, were you aware that they are already registered, did you know whether their Identity documents were authentic, did you know whether they had different fingerprints, you cannot cheat the ZEC voter registration system.”
She said ZEC received reports that some people were moving from one NGO to another, making multiple applications to get more incentives.
“I am telling you emphatically that this is what transpired. It has been reported to us they would deliberately go to different voter registration centres and deliberately go to different organisations that were mobilising people to register to vote, and they would access incentives but when it comes now to being entered as a registered voter, the system would flag them as a multiple registrant.”
Turning to ZEC’s preparedness for both by-elections and 2023 harmonised elections, Justice Chigumba said everything was in place.
ZEc is going to launch a voter registration blitz in February ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
Justice Chigumba said ZEC already had the $2 billion needed to conduct the March 26 by-elections meant to fill vacancies caused by deaths of incumbent and recalls by their political parties.
She said they had deferred voter registration blitz that was set for December last year because of Covid-19 at three of their offices and upon realising that the Registrar General’s office was not adequately capacitated to issue identity documents, an integral factor on voter registration.
The voter registration blitz, she said, was never meant for the by-elections, but to assist in the forthcoming delimitation exercise.
Justice Chigumba said the deferment did not disadvantage any prospective applicant given that provincial and district offices were always open and were never inundated with applicants as what obtains with the RG’s office.
“Voter registration has always been held towards delimitation. It has always been meant to beef up numbers for the delimitation exercise. As a commission, we do not make arbitrary decisions. Voter registration is continuous.
“Our stakeholders should understand that we have 10 provincial offices open on a permanent basis, 63 district offices open everyday, the evidence in December is that our offices were not inundated with applicants, we did not see long winding queues of people expressing the need to register to vote. Our permanent offices were not inundated with numbers. Our offices were open for those who wanted to register, what we postponed were the roving kits,” she said.
Justice Chigumba said the delimitation exercise was expected to start in September after the population census final results that is expected in August this year.