We are worried that with the current state of the BVR process, Zimbabwe is unlikely to conduct a credible electoral process in 2018. In light of the immense irregularities surrounding the process we call on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to urgently ensure public information is accessible and the BVR process is as transparent as possible as the first step in retaining integrity and trust building with election stakeholders and citizens.
Key emerging Issues:
We have noted with grave concern that the voter registration process in urban centres is slow with ZEC indicating that they will only register 75 people a day in Harare. This runs contrary to plans of registering 7 million voters at the end of the 6months period. In Harare on Tuesday 19 September, ZEC ran out of VR1 forms at Remembrance House, Mbare sending multitudes of citizens back home unregistered.
We are surprised at the decision by ZEC to deploy 63 voter registration units throughout the country when the commission claims to be in possession of over 400 units. We query the rationale behind the deployment of the inadequate equipment.
We note the following issues:
- Electoral Act is still to be fully aligned with the constitution and the Voter Registration Regulations still have grey areas. In their current state the legislative and regulatory frameworks run counter to the constitution.
- ZEC hastily launched and began the voter registration process without adequate voter education.
- The Biometric Voter Registration process is being implemented without clear timelines
- Civil society organisations outside Harare have not yet received voter education materials from the Zimbabwe Election Commission
- The location of voter registration centres is not strategic and are inaccessible rendering most citizens unable to register to vote. We are worried with the decision to locate the Umguza Voter Registration Centre in Bulawayo Central Business District while the Sanyati Voter Registration Centre is located some 90 kilometres from Sanyati Centre in Kadoma.
- Inaccessibility of identity documents at the Registrar General’s Offices countrywide, of the 52000 applicants only 34000 received identity documents, significantly disenfranchising women who constitute the bulk of the applicants.
- ZEC remains without a clear media strategy on the Biometric Voter Registration process with most citizens unaware of the process.
- ZEC has not yet produced and circulated a set of operational procedures that the public should expect in registration centres or stations and what those observing and monitoring the process would observe.
- The Commission employed people who are not conversant with the use and operation ICTs hence the slow pace of registration for instance in Harare ZEC registered only 5 people from 8AM – 1130 on Wednesday 20 September 2017.
- The commission has not yet set up a data centre where voters’ information will be stored. We find this amiss and question where the current information being captured is being stored. This raises a lot of concern on the vulnerability of voters’ information.
- ZEC has not yet circulated information on all voter registration centres with citizens left guessing on where and how they will register to voter.
- The Logistics Committee continues to be an arm in electoral administration whose personnel and appointment is shrouded in secrecy. Equally the criterion to the Commission’s staffing and recruitment has remained in secrecy with neither transparency nor accountability to the citizen and election stakeholders.
Implications on Electoral Democracy
In light of the key emerging issues and more cited above, we believe that the delays in registering voters in urban centres and communal lands are designed to disenfranchise citizens from enjoying their constitutional right to a free, fair and credible election in 2018. In its current state and format ZEC will not be able to register the projected 7million voters in the new biometric voters roll.
We wish to warn ZEC that, if poorly implemented, BVR can be a monumental disaster which will continue to perpetuate the problem of state illegitimacy in Zimbabwe and create a constitutional crisis where the will of the citizens is abrogated. With its inadequacies, ZEC has set in motion a complex process of electoral fraud which will descend the country further into the abyss. We hold that a shoddy voter registration process will produce contested results and encourage apathy among citizens in participation in election related processes.
We call upon ZEC to act urgently and decisively on these irregularities and ensure that Zimbabwe passes all tests for democratic elections that are competitive, periodic, inclusive, regular, transparent in which persons to hold office at all levels of government are elected, through the secret ballot, by citizens who broadly enjoy fundamental human rights and freedoms. In the absence of radical changes to the above challenges, we doubt ZEC’s commitment and Zimbabwe’s readiness to hold a credible, free and fair election in 2018.Post published in: Featured