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800 000 deceased Zimbabweans still on voters' register
February 04, 2005

HARARE - The names of 800 000 deceased Zimbabweans still appear on the country's voters' roll among a litany of "chronic errors" that could render an accurate and democratic election in March impossible, research on the key roll has revealed.

In addition to the 800 000 names of dead people, another 900 000 people listed on the roll as eligible voters are not known or do not live at the addresses under which their names appear, according to a preliminary report by FreeZim, a local non-governmental organisation that did the research.

Established in 2002, FreeZim is an election support group which has carried extensive research on Zimbabwe's shambolic voters' roll.

The group has already submitted its report to the newly appointed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. The commission, headed by High Court Judge and ally of President Robert Mugabe, George Chiweshe, is tasked with running elections in Zimbabwe.

Chiweshe, who was appointed only last month and does not have staff or phones as yet, could not be reached for comment on the FreeZim report.

The disclosure of gross inaccuracies and irregularities on the voters' roll comes just as the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) party rescinded yesterday a decision to boycott the March poll unless the political playing field was levelled.

Detailing some of the massive errors on the voters' roll released by Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede last month, FreeZim, for example, said that in Harare North constituency it had discovered that, 50 percent of the people registered as voters there did not live at the addresses under which their names appear.

The group said it had also identified 300 000 names of voters that are duplicated over and over again on several pages of the register.

"Over two million of the 5.6 million names registered as voters are suspect - it is obvious that there are chronic errors and the roll is overstated by unrealistic proportions that cannot be ignored," the group concludes in the report dated 23 January 2005.

Under Zimbabwe's constituency-based parliamentary election system, voters must prove they reside in a constituency before they can be registered as voters and once so registered, they cannot vote in any other constituency.

A voter can be barred from voting if their name or address is wrongly entered on their constituency roll.

Human rights groups and election observers have in the past accused Mugabe and ZANU PF of manipulating the voters' roll in addition to using violence and intimidation to win elections. Mugabe and his party deny the charge.

Announcing it will be contesting the poll, the MDC said it was doing so only because of pressure from its supporters and insisted that the scales were "more than ever" tilted in favour of Mugabe and his ruling ZANU PF party. - ZimOnline

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