The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will soon embark on a nationwide voter registration exercise to capture all eligible voters by 2016. The exercise comes after the completion of a pilot project undertaken in Marondera to gain experience to be used in the creation of polling station-specific voters’ rolls.
The new polling station based voter’s roll would assist in dispelling negative perceptions associated with the previous voters’ roll.
Speaking at the sidelines of the polling station pilot voter registration feedback meeting in Harare last Friday, ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau, said dates for registration of voters under new polling station based voting system would be gazetted soon.
“Now that we have done it in Marondera, we will roll out the process nationwide. With or without money, polling stations will be opened soon on a date to be gazetted and announced,” said Justice Makarau.
ZEC’s chief elections officer Mrs Constance Chigwamba said: “We are consulting with stakeholders who have shown that the polling station-voter registration can be done. It has to be for 2018 harmonised elections,” she said.
“If we have to prepare a voters’ roll for all the 110 constituencies, without having to have repeat registrants, the registration process should be completed in 2016 with 2017 becoming the mop up exercise,” she said.
The meeting was attended by representatives from MDC-T, MDC 99, Suffering Voices of Zimbabwe, (SUVOZ), Progressive and Innovative Movement of Zimbabwe (PIMZ) and Zimbabwe Development Party (ZDP) officials.
Mrs Chigwamba reiterated that ZEC required more than $50 million for the nationwide voting exercise.
“The finances are needed because this exercise requires funding. We will not claim that ZEC will do it alone. We have already prepared something and if we are to roll out by next year, we would need $50 million,” she said.
“This is provided for in the Constitution and the Electoral Act. Every one of the approximately six million voters, need to be captured and capturing is done on a form before it is computerised,” she said.
Justice Makarau said the new system would eliminate cases of ghost voters.
“A supplementary voters’ roll will be a thing of the past. The constitutional provision does not allow us to set up polling stations in hospitals, prisons or register persons with foreign addresses. We have been calling for the realignment of the laws and you should agitate for this kind of legal reforms,” she said.
ZEC commissioner Mrs Bessie Nhandara, said the pilot project was an eye opener which revealed ZEC loopholes in terms of equipment and resources.
“The pilot exercise revealed that we are not adequately equipped in terms of computers and other hardware and software to conduct a mammoth activity. It also revealed a gap in the training needs for personnel to conduct voter registration if this is to be taken countrywide. The Commission has to train staff in voter registration as this is a new function with its own peculiarities that require special skills,” she said.