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This article participates on the following special index pages:
Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles
Monitor - Issue 194
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
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chaos mar voter registration exercise
- let us help,
civil society says
A highly anticipated
registration exercise has become a nightmare, with arrests and
chaotic scenes at registration centres leaving huge question marks
on the whole process. With elections expected this year, the voter
registration exercise is a key step to credible polls. But members
of the public, civil society organisations and political parties
are crying foul, with some calling for the resignation of Registrar
General Tobaiwa Mudede.
bodies are now calling on government to allow them to assist in
voter education programmes after realising authorities are overwhelmed.
society organisations last week released a damning report card of
the exercise, and demanded a fresh exercise, in line with the new
In a joint statement,
the organisations – ranging from student bodies, churches,
trade unions and women’s groups to journalists and artists
– said the exercise was hampered by a dearth of information,
publicity and limited voter education.
groups such as youths, the elderly, women, workers and people living
with disabilities were not specially catered for, the groups said
in the statement.
failed to adhere to stipulated opening and closing times resulting
in prospective voters being turned away while requirements were
too stringent, the groups said.
This has resulted
in the organisations demanding a fresh mobile voter registration
Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), the law provides for such
6(3) of the Sixth Schedule specifically states that there shall
be a special and intensive voter registration and inspection exercise
for at least 30 days after the publication of the new Constitution.
This does not have to start immediately after the publication date,
and will also be dependent on preparedness, as well as adequate
human and financial resourcing of ZEC, which will supervise the
Registrar-General’s (RG) office during this exercise.
is also a possibility of extending this 30-day period if it does
not satisfy the needs of people wishing to register to vote or inspect
the voters roll. The 30-day exercise is mandatory and failure to
carry out this exercise after the new Constitution comes into effect
will be a violation of the new Constitution by ZEC and the RG’s
office,” said ZLHR in a statement last week.
ZLHR and other
civil society organisations say government should allow them to
assist in voter education.
seems to have its own ideas. Instead of embracing civil society
efforts, it has unleashed State agents on bonafide groups trying
to assist in voter education.
This month, police charged
the Electoral Resource Centre (ERC), represented by the organisation’s
director Tawanda Chimhini with contravening Section 40 (C) (1) (g)
of the Electoral
Act for allegedly conducting a voter education exercise without
authority/ permission from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
arrested over the weekend while allegedly conducting a voter education
exercise have now been turned into State witnesses. Lawyers from
ZLHR are representing ERC. In Bulawayo, three Movement for Democratic
Change members were arrested after they were found in possession
of about 23 receipts from people who had registered to vote.
Civil society groups say such actions by State agents are not in
the spirit of reforms agreed to by coalition partners at the inception
of the government in 2009. Since December, State agents have been
targeting organisations involved in voter education. Police in December
Human Rights Association (ZimRights) officials Leo Chamahwinya,
Dorcas Shereni, Farai Bhani and Tatenda Chinaka. They were accused
of contravening Section 31, 136 and 137 of the Criminal
Law (Codification and Reform) Act for allegedly attempting to
defraud the Registrar General’s Office by forging and manufacturing
counterfeit copies of certificates of voter registration.
month ZimRights director Okay Machisa was arrested
on similar charges. The courts later threw out the cases.
police in Lupane, Matabeleland North Province, arrested two National
Youth Development Trust members and charged them with contravening
Section 40 of the Criminal Law (Codification and Reform) Act (Chapter
9:23) for allegedly possessing voter registration receipts.
has been representing most of those arrested in connection with
voter education and registration, says Zimbabwe will be unable to
hold a credible election if the arrests and harassment continue.
director Irene Petras last week said law enforcement agents must
allow civil society groups (CSOs) to do their legitimate work without
hindrance. Petras said some of the activities that CSOs are currently
being harassed for undertaking are not necessarily voter education.
She called for more interaction between CSOs and ZEC to make sure
that the process of registration and accreditation for voter education
is speedily done.
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