Gov urged to relax voter registration rules (31-07-07

By Chief Reporter
HARARE – Zimbabwe’s main opposition and civic groups
have urged government to
relax voter registration rules stipulating that
prospective voters produce multiple documents to prove
their residency, charging the regulation was aimed at

ensuring the re-election bid for President
Robert Mugabe and his ruling Zanu (PF) party.
An independent poll monitoring body, the Zimbabwe
Election Support Network (ZESN) stated this week that
the time allocated to voter registration – eight weeks
–was grossly insufficient and should be extended.
Voter registration closes on August 18.
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should also
increase its efforts to educate people so that they
may understand the importance of registering as
voters,” said ZESN national director Rindai
Chipfunde-Vava. “Political parties should also play an
active role in encouraging their supporters to go and
register as voters while more resources should be
allocated to the Registrar General’s office so that it
may be able to expeditiously satisfy the high demand
for identity documents and registration”.
Chipfunde-Vava said ZESN monitors had observed scores
of youths, pointedly at Mlomoliwoto Primary School in
Lupane, who were unable to register, as they did not
have proof of residence.
“They claimed that their traditional leaders had
denied them these letters at the instigation of a
known ruling party official,” Chipfunde-Vava said.
The opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC)
said it was gravely concerned that the stringent proof
of residency rule was designed to disenfranchise
millions of voters in urban areas, where Mugabe’s
ruling Zanu (PF) party lost heavily to the MDC in the
2005 general parliamentary elections.
The situation was the same with rural voters, who have
to produce sworn statements signed by traditional
leaders, mainly chiefs and headmen – the front line
enforcers of Mugabe’s brutal regime in the communal
areas – home to 75 percent of the electorate.
“The traditional leaders are in bed with Zanu (PF) and
are denying to write such letters for people known to
be MDC supporters,” MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said.
“It means we are being disenfranchised because
hundreds of thousands of our supporters are being
denied the right to vote next year.” There were also
concerns about intimidation amid reports a
photojournalist was arrested last week for taking
pictures outside one of the voter registration units.
The government is also denying voting rights to
millions of Zimbabweans abroad, saying it does not
have the capacity to process them.
But the main wing of the MDC – whose leader Morgan
Tsvangirai is expected to give
Mugabe the stiffest challenge of his long career –
says all the rules are meant to bolster Mugabe’s
chances in the presidential elections due March, which
will run concurrently with legislative polls.
ZEC chairman George Chiweshe was not immediately
available for comment.
But the 83-year-old Mugabe maintains the elections
will be free and fair, and says he has never cheated
in a poll since he came to power when the former
Rhodesia gained independence in 1980.
He claims there is a Western-backed plot to topple his
government, and has entrusted the administration of
the entire elections to the government-appointed ZEC.
The Zimbabwean government says some Western powers,
especially Britain, are working for Mugabe’s defeat in
revenge for his controversial drive to seize
white-owned farms for redistribution to landless
Britain and other Western states deny the charge,
saying Mugabe wants to divert attention from a crisis
he has created.

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