THE NGO NETWORK ALLIANCE PROJECT - an online community for Zimbabwean activists  
 View archive by sector
 
 
    HOME THE PROJECT DIRECTORYJOINARCHIVESEARCH E:ACTIVISMBLOGSMSFREEDOM FONELINKS CONTACT US
 

 


Back to Index

This article participates on the following special index pages:

  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles


  • Update in mobile voter registration
    National Youth Development Trust
    May 07, 2013

    The National Youth Development Trust notes with concern the challenges facing the current mobile voter registration exercise by the Registrar General’ office. The process has so far been marred with confusion, with the deployed officials indicating lack of clarity on their mandate and therefore denying critical service to some citizens. The following are some of the issues that have been noted:

    Opening and closing times

    In some areas the officials from the Registrar General’s office have failed to open and close mobile registration centres at stipulated times. For instance, operating times are from 7am to 7 pm but in Bulawayo the team has been starting around 9am and closing at 5pm, depriving residents of at least 4 hours of service.

    Confusion with regards to mandate

    Some teams revealed uncertainty on what exactly their mandate is. In Bulawayo, Sizinda hall in particular, the team initially claimed that it was only mandated to do voter inspection and not registration and referred those intending to register to the provincial offices or other satellite offices in Bulawayo. Voter registration began later in the day after a number of people; mostly youths, had been frustrated and left. Such a delay in starting and lack of clear instructions by the registry teams affected the process, especially considering that they were only at Sizinda Hall for one day.

    Clash of venues

    The process has also been tarnished by logistical challenges. In some cases the advertised venues would have been previously booked by other organisations or churches. This case of Double booking shows that the Registrar General’s office did not bother checking the availability of advertised venues before allocating them to the process. For example, in Sizinda, the voter registration process had to run concurrently with a church service at the hall. Some residents complained that they did not utilise the service because they thought that the officials didn’t come since they could only see more people who had come to attend church.

    Proof of Residence

    Proof of residence still remains a problematic requirement when it comes to the voter registration process. There seems to be no clear definition of what can be accepted as proof or residence. This leaves the prerogative of deciding what is or not proof of residence on the officer attending to residents. As a result one person can be turned away for bringing a cellphone line certificate as proof of residence and the next person is registered using the same document. This has resulted in a lot of people being turned away and failing to register.

    Under staffing

    Instead of having multiple teams stationed in different areas as was expected, there is only one team which is being seen operating in Bulawayo. This means that the same people presiding over the inspection of the voters roll are the same who are supposed to assist people intending to register as voters or needing help with Identity documents. This tends to slow down the process thus reducing the number of people who can be attended to on a single day. Evidently this is a challenge considering that the service is only available for one day in some areas. Having one team being operational also means that it will not be able to cover all areas within the stipulated time frames. This has resulted in them choosing to be available in some areas and not others. This means that some citizens will be deprived of this opportunity.

    Absence of ZEC

    The conspicuous absence of the Zimbabwe electoral commission to monitor and even assist the process on the ground is another cause for concern. ZEC officials have highlighted that they have no budget to monitor the process or to be a part of it since all the resources were directed to the Registrar General’s office. This raises questions on why the government continues to fund the administrative arm of the process while neglecting the body that is responsible for the voters roll. Some residents, especially in Mabuthweni, highlighted that the presence of ZEC was going to help in dealing with the unfriendly and intimidating conduct of Registry staff who are keen on turning away people without proper explanations.

    Poor publicity of the exercise

    The mobile voter registration exercise which began on Monday April 29, 2013 was only advertised in some newspapers on Saturday May 4, 2013, 5 days after the process had already begun. Apart from being publicized late, the method of publicity used is very exclusive. Very few Zimbabweans, specifically young people, have access to newspapers. More needs to be done to ensure that people are made aware of the exercise so that they can benefit from it. It is also interesting to note that the exercise is not even publicized in the Office of the Registrar General’s official website.

    Uneven distribution of centres

    The distribution of centres for the mobile voter registration process seems to favour some constituencies. Throughout the whole of Matabeleland, there are some constituencies and districts that have more centres than others and one wonders why it is so. For example both Bubi and Mguza constituencies have 19 centres each and yet Tsholotsho North and South are sharing only 11 Centres and Lupane East and West are sharing only 15 Centres. This shows that the allocation of centres was done by officials who were either ignorant or chose to ignore the sizes of various constituencies. The net effect of this has been that in most rural areas in Matabeleland people still have to travel a distance of more than 15km to get to the nearest mobile registration centre. This, combined with the poor administration and publicity of the process, means that more people resident away from the designated centres will remain unaware of the process until it comes to an end.

    Clean up of Voter’s roll

    Given the recent claims that at least one million deceased people were removed from the Voter’s roll, there is need for the office of the registrar General to clarify if their teams are going to the communities with an updated voters roll or not. For a long time the said office has claimed that it can only remove the dead from the voter’s roll if a family member approaches them to notify them of such. Given the fact that it is not possible for a million families to have suddenly approached registry to remove these names, there are concerns that some names of living individuals may have been struck out of the voter’s roll without them knowing hence the need for the teams to have an updated roll.

    Recommendations

    In light of the concerns noted above, the NYDT advises that:

    • The Registrar General’s office ensures that their officers stick to stipulated operating times in order to provide adequate service to the residents.
    • That the officers tasked to conduct the mobile registration process be fully aware of their mandate to avoid confusion and time wasting.
    • That the administration of the exercise be treated with the seriousness it deserves and that the relevant office checks availability of venues before they are selected and publicised.
    • There is also a need for the relaxation of the restrictive requirement of proof of residence by accepting a variety of forms of documentation that could serve as proof of residence. This will allow more Zimbabweans to be able to register.
    • More teams need to be deployed to allow the process to reach out to as many Zimbabweans as possible. As such there is need for the registry to partner with ZEC in the current exercise to allow for more teams
    • The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission needs to be visible on the ground to publicise and monitor the exercise, while giving out as much relevant information to the citizens as possible. This will greatly reduce the number of people being turned away while at the same time drawing more people to be part of the exercise.
    • The publicity strategy of the exercise needs to be inclusive, mass based and accessible. As such, the use of regular notifications on various radio stations, posters, information fliers and social media can be part of the strategy.
    • To allow the process to be more accessible, the polling stations used at the referendum could have been used as registration centres.
    • The Registrar General’s office and the Zimbabwe electoral commission need to ensure that enough information on the requirements is distributed and desist from asking for additional requirements when people are already at the registration centres.
    • There is also a need for all the mobile registration exercises to be a one stop centre for all the services offered by the registrar general’s office that have a direct bearing on the voter registration process.

    It is the hope of the NYDT that the above concerns will be taken up, recommendations made considered and due action be taken to allow the citizens of Zimbabwe to have access to exercising their democratic right to vote.

    Visit the National Youth Development Trust fact sheet

    Please credit www.kubatana.net if you make use of material from this website. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License unless stated otherwise.

    TOP