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  • Zimbabwe's Elections 2013 - Index of Articles

  • Legal Monitor - Issue 201
    Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR)
    July 15
    , 2013

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    Nightmare as first time voter

    So, the coalition government did manage to get rid of queues. The meandering bank queues, the bread lines and the hours on end lining for fuel. In four years, all those queues have gone. Well, except one – the most important queue for a Zimbabwean seeking to exercise his right to vote. Last week, I decided to register as a voter and came face-to-face with the chaos. Suddenly, I was back to 2008 - the year of the queue.

    Ignoring the reports of delays I was reading in newspapers, I decided to go and register at Mberi Primary School in Zengeza 2, Chitungwiza. Despite many negative reports of the process that almost thwarted my zeal, I made up my mind. I wanted to be a registered voter. Arriving at the registration centre at exactly 8:46 am, I was greeted by two long winding queues. One was for those intending to acquire birth certificates and national identity cards while the other was for voter registration. I approached one police officer manning the registration centre and asked her what a first time voter needed to do in order to register. The response that I got from the police officer almost revived my lost hope and I quickly rushed to the queue, little did I know this was the commencing of a frustrating day – albeit ending with a ray of light.

    The first batch of 25 people entered the hall at around 10am and we waited patiently for almost an hour and a half before the other batch got in. Slow as it was, I was determined. But others were not so patient. The snail pace at which the process was being conducted left many people frustrated and a good number returned home as they had come with hope to be served early before reporting for work. Whilst in the queue, a group of nine young men arrived. Clad in different Zanu-PF regalia ranging from caps written “Vote Zanu-PF”, red and black berets, overall coats with President Robert Mugabe’s signature they caused a scene. Straight away, in an organised manner they picked more than 20 people from the queue from whom they took registration documents and entered the hall. The move left many in awe and tongues wagging as no one had any idea of what was going on. The incident triggered chaos, which brought business to a halt, as people demanded explanation from authorities of what was going on and why the process was consuming so much time.

    Police manning the registration centre tried to contain the chaos but their efforts were in vain as most people had lost patience and for almost 30 minutes people demanded to know whether the process belonged to a particular political and why the Zanu-PF youths got preferential treatment. An elderly man who said he had been in the queue since 6am shouted: “We are being denied our right to register and the pace at which the registration process is going on is a clear act of sabotage.” His protests were ignored. As the chaos continued, I began chatting up one guy. He told me he had earlier asked for assistance from the same group when he arrived. “They began asking me who my ward chairman was and the names of people who were in the party structures within my ward,” he said. “I told them I knew nothing about the party structures and they began teasing and harassing me, saying I was so foolish not to know party structures yet excepted help.” The discussion made everything fall in place. I began to understand why this group wearing ZANU PF regalia had caused so much chaos.

    As business resumed, I waited patiently until around 18:30 pm when we entered the hall and there were four registration agents and among the four was a man who sat at the far end of the table, talking to another man while registering people. He took almost 15 minutes and when the man left he was given close to 10 registration slips. With the registration slips, the man went and met a group of more than 20 people who were sitting inside the hall, opposite the registration desks and among them were those young men who had earlier caused commotion outside. I recall checking my watch. It was now 19:20 when I sat at the registration desk. Finally, the nightmare was over. I was given my registration slip but left with more questions than answers on the credibility of the entire exercise.

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