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Toward an improved voter registration system in Zimbabwe
Election Resource Centre
April 30, 2013

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) welcomes recent efforts by the inclusive government to improve conditions for the registration of prospective voters ahead of the much anticipated harmonised elections. Public pronouncements by the two Cabinet Ministers, Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs and Co-Minister of Home Affairs, Hon Chinamasa and Hon Makone respectively in the past week set the nation on one of the most crucial stages of the electoral process – registration of voters. Government announced a raft of changes and or developments aimed at addressing some noted bottlenecks bedevilling the registration process. The measures include;

  • Easy replacement of lost identity cards,
  • Reduction of the cost of purchasing the voters roll from $30000 to $5000
  • Promptly allowing the registration of those deemed aliens on the voter`s roll.
  • The release of US$8 million to facilitate the rolling out of a three week mobile voter registration, commencing 29 April 2013.

The Election Resource Centre applauds the government for announcing the carrying out of the three week mobile voter registration exercise. The mobile voter registration exercise among other things addresses the challenged faced by a prospective registrants relating to accessibility. Secondly a cabinet directive compels the office of the registrar to replace lost identification cards due to negligence for free throughout the three week period. Subsequently the cost of replacing IDs beyond the three week period shall be reduced from $10 to $5.

Having noted the positive developments brought by the exercise, other challenges remains as obstacles to registration process include the requirement of proof of residence. Potential registrants face difficulties in acquiring proof of residency invariably because some landlords (urban electorate) or traditional leaders (rural electorate) are unwilling to issue letters confirming the residency of citizens who possibly could be of different political inclination to either the land owner or traditional leader in question. As such ZEC can however take advantage of the “level of discretion” bequeathed upon the registration officials in Section 23 of the Electoral Act which implies that the officials “may” or “may not” demand proof of residency to ascertain the residence status of an applicant. Indeed this would become a relief to many.

It is time election stakeholders make serious efforts at both legal and administrative level to demand for an improved voter registration system in Zimbabwe. Staging another election within the context of a deteriorated voters roll opens up floodgates of possible electoral manipulation.

However, for expediency, the impending mobile voter registration process should seek to reach out to as many eligible new registrants as possible.

Furthermore, this is an opportunity to clean the voter’s roll through removing those deceased persons who still appear on the roll, to address the presence of incomplete data on registrants such as the sex or place of residency, possible duplicate registration, the presence of minors on the roll and the existence of incorrect details of some registrants, all of which concerns have been raised by not just previous audits of the roll but also the major political parties in Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission itself.

Important factors which will be used to judge the mobile voter registration process include, how accessible it will, if the general public will be aware of the process, if enough time is allocated for would be registrants to actually plan to engage with the process from an informed position, the transparency of the process and how inclusive the commission will be in engaging all election stakeholders in not only the conduct of the process but also in the administration of the mobile voter registration process.

There is clearly no need for the country to be rushed into a mobile registration process that will not deliver much in terms of making the process more accessible and leading towards a more acceptable principle document for election. There exist so many opportunities for the ZEC to ensure that this process indeed makes a significant difference ahead of the next election.

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