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Voter education lags far behind
Rutendo Mawere, The Standard (Zimbabwe)
December 02, 2007

GWERU - Although elections scheduled for early next year are only a few months away, most Zimbabweans eligible to vote have not received any worthwhile voter education, according to a survey by the Mass Public Opinion Institute (MPOI).

The national survey on Zimbabwe Electoral Processes and Reforms, conducted in all the provinces and released recently, says 68% of the potential voters in Zimbabwe have not received any voter/civic education.

Anyway Ndapwadza, the principal researcher at the Institute, said in Gweru last week there would be many spoilt papers in the ballot boxes if a vigorous voter education exercise was not undertaken.

Civil society members present at the occasion when Ndapwadza presented the results of the survey said the government needed to allow civic organisations to immediately launch voter education programmes as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had not done much.

The ZEC, composed mostly of civil servants, has the official mandate to provide voter education.

"If there were a lot of spoilt papers during the 2005 parliamentary elections, where voters were voting only for MPs, imagine what would happen when there will be so many names for different positions," said Peter Muchengeti, National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations' regional chairperson. "If people do not receive voter education now they will be very confused on the voting day."

On voter/civic education by party affiliation, the survey revealed that supporters of the Morgan Tsvangirai-led Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) were the worst affected, with 75% of the sampled supporters saying they had not received any voter education.

Sixty-four percent of the Arthur Mutambara faction said they had not received any voter education.

For Zanu PF, 60% of the members were in dire need of voter education.

Another finding of the survey was that 32% of potential voters had still not registered at the time of the inquiry.

Lyson Mlambo of the Mutambara MDC faction acknowledged that political parties, especially the MDC, still had to educate their supporters on how to vote.

"Past elections have shown that despite the fact that we have a strong base," said Mlambo, "we lose elections partly because most of our supporters, especially the youths, are not registered voters. As political parties we should urge all our supporters to register for the 2008 elections."

The survey revealed that only 60% of the potential voters considered the 2008 elections to be "very important".

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