CSO demands voters roll

LOCAL civil society organisations (CSOs) have piled pressure on the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to clear the air on the ongoing voter registration programme after it recently issued two different figures for first-time registrants captured on its database.

One of the CSOs, Project Vote 263, on Tuesday petitioned Zec demanding access to the consolidated national voters’ roll to enhance monitoring of the voter registration process ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.

Zec last week disclosed that it only registered 2 000 first-time voters last year, but later revised the figure to 2 971 new voters, with civic groups claiming that the numbers were understated.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) on Tuesday wrote to Zec on behalf of Project Vote 263, demanding copies of the consolidated national voters’ roll.

In the letter dated January 4, 2022 ZLHR lawyer Godfrey Mupanga said Project Vote 263 wanted both the electronic and print copies of the voters’ roll.

He stated that in line with section 20(4)(a) and (c) of the Electoral Act, Zec was obliged to keep at least one copy of every voters’ roll at its head office in both print and electronic formats.

“It is only for the sake of convenience that I point to you the provisions of the Electoral Act under which my client wishes to exercise their right to be furnished with copies of the voters’ roll,” Mupanga wrote.

“As you may be aware, my client is a civic organisation that is currently involved in mobilisation of qualified Zimbabwean citizens and residents to register as voters. Therefore, in terms of section 21(7)(iii), my client wishes to use the voters’ roll for purposes associated with the Electoral Act and not for commercial or other  purposes.”

Opposition Transform Zimbabwe leader Jacob Ngarivhume said he had also approached Zec officials, demanding justification for its disclosure that it had only registered less than 3 000 new voters despite several campaigns conducted by CSOs to encourage citizens to register.

“I went to the Zec offices yesterday (Tuesday) and I wanted to meet the chief elections officer (Utoile Silaigwana), but I failed,” Ngarivhume said.

“I met the public relations director Chinyuke. I quizzed Zec over why it had only registered 2 971 new voters when it had been allocated $11,6 billion from the national budget to run elections. If there are no electoral reforms, which include transparency, surely there is no need to go for the 2023 elections.”

In a statement on Tuesday, Zec commissioner Joyce Kazembe said by the end of November 2021, the electoral body had recorded 5 647 000 registered voters for the 2023 elections which consists of new and old registrants.

She said only successfully vetted new registrants were placed on the voters’ roll.

Meanwhile, pressure is also mounting for Zec to revamp its secretariat over inconsistencies in the voters’ roll and its failure to make it readily accessible.

Political analyst Kudakwashe Munemo said:  “Zec is one of the independent commissions supporting democracy established in terms of Chapter 12 of the country’s Constitution and charged with the mandate to manage the country’s electoral processes. It would be difficult to disband it.

“If Zec has staff who are employees of the military or other intelligence operatives, which are government-controlled entities, these must be discharged from their duties and it is the role of the commissioners to do so.”

Election Resource Centre director Barbra Nyangairi said: “Zec, which is composed of appointed members, has various functions which include voter registration and ensuring transparency in the commissions’ conduct. The principles that bind the commission and its members must be adhered to at all times.”Newsday.

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