Voter education is about informing citizens on how to vote, exercise their rights and the whole electoral process and this must be administered prior to the elections. Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC); Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) and all stakeholders such as political parties should work together to produce an acceptable basic programme for this exercise. It is essential to voters so that they can understand how they can exercise their voting rights effectively and express their political will through the electoral process.
In brief the four main basic messages, though not exhaustive, are as follows:-
First, Voter Education makes it clear that citizens will have choices between individuals, parties and policy options and will also have a freedom to make these choices without any influence of intimidation.
Secondly, it provides citizens with high motivation in elections, as it considers their rights to free and fair election and helps voters to understand their rights on taking part as they also facilitate and monitoring of the elections by their involvement – all citizens unlike by just a specialist group such as the United Nations or SADC etc.
Thirdly voters are made aware that electoral success or failure may be determined by a small number of votes where there will be a marginal winner and loser – so every vote counts toward building whatever outcome. It should be noted that each individual vote has weight in determining the rights that they have over the elected party or representative once the election has been won or lost. Citizens’ vote would even count whereby good relationship between voters/citizens and elected officials should be established.
Finally, voter education must make it abundantly clear that each individual’s vote is secret – meaning to say that voters are protected from intimidation and fear of subsequent political and personal consequences.
However effective voter education in Zimbabwe will depend on a number of factors such as the history of previous elections, voter registration system – weather mandatory or voluntary; voter registration responsibility, changes in the system; electorate confidence, nature of election campaigns – i.e. whether they are open and competitive and so on. With much spreading of voter education positive results are going to be realised.
Reasonable enough time, not less than six months is needed to create a conducive environment which enables all potential voters in the forth coming election so that they can cast their votes with confidence.
Basic voter education, may not be sufficient on its own but can be complemented by Civic Education which employs a broader perspective and covers a number of aspects such as the meaning of democracy; good governance; democratic institutions and laws and nany others
Ideally, these programmes can be covered using the media, printed materials, arts and culture, face to face interaction etc
However, every Zimbabwean citizen should take responsibility for passing onto other citizens the message of participating in the democracy by voting in the coming 2018 elections. Please let’s go and register in our numbers.
Each One Teach One and thus how we can overcome our current Zimbabwean problem – come 2018 elections.