Elections in danger

HARARE - Zimbabwe's forthcoming elections are on the ropes, with revelations that cash shortages are threatening a key voter registration exercise which has become the subject of fresh wrangling.

Apart from the cash woes announced by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday, an MP from Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC on the same day tabled a motion in Parliament to force a fresh start to mobile voter registration.

The MP, Settlement Chikwinya, also wants Finance minister Tendai Biti to be forced to release adequate money for voter registration. He also wants President Robert Mugabe and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai “not to proclaim any date for elections before they agree to a voters’ roll that has to be compiled to the satisfaction of all citizens eligible”.

Both the MDC and Mugabe’s Zanu PF view voter registration as the most critical electoral process.

Zanu PF’s United Nations (UN) election funding snub is now haunting Zec, as the broke Treasury has failed to inject adequate funding to the mobile voter registration process that is shrouded by controversy.

Out of an expected $8 million required to carry out the three week long voter registration blitz — the government has only injected $500 000 — a pittance that has left Zec with a serious headache.

The UN assistance was expected to be about $132 million, but Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, who is Mugabe’s election point-man, said the UN wanted to interfere in local politics by attaching conditions to poll funding.

After slamming the door on the UN, Mugabe and his Zanu PF have been saying the country would finance the cumbersome process from internal sources, such as the Chiadzwa diamonds, but facts on the ground are proving otherwise.

Addressing journalists yesterday, Zec chairperson Rita Makarau admitted that the electoral body is cash-strapped and this could affect the credibility of the electoral process.

A lack of publicity and also some bottlenecks have resulted in a low turnout of people registering as voters and Makarau yesterday said they will continue monitoring the progress of the blitz with the possibility of an extension.

“Zec admits that the deployment of two voter educators per district is far from adequate and may not cover all eligible voters. This is because the voter education exercise has, to date, only received $500 000 from Treasury, against a budget of $8 601,712.

“Against this background, the voter educators deployed will, unless more funds are allocated to Zec in the next few days, have no efficient transport to move throughout the districts allocated them.

“Most, if not all, (of the voter educators) have to walk the entire length and breadth of their respective wards, some of which are fairly large,” she said.

After Zanu PF’s UN snub, Biti proposed to introduce a cocktail of measures that included flouting bonds and an increase in excise duty on fuel to bankroll the process.

This comes as a local civil body that monitors elections, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), says there are anomalies in the on-going mobile voter registration process.

“Whilst the process is continuing in some of the areas, the outreach is evidently yet to be witnessed in most electoral districts.

“In places which the mobile registration teams have visited, a number of potential voters remain disenfranchised due to a myriad of challenges ranging from lack of publicity, inadequate time allocation, the cost of registration, limited civil registration services and difficulties in acquiring necessary documents like proof of residence,” reads part of ERC’s report released yesterday.

Makarau told reporters that if a potential voter fails to produce required documents such as rental cards, lease agreements, credit store statements, hospital bills, telephone bills or a sworn statement from the employer, then the person should depose a sworn affidavit.

“Where the citizen seeking registration as a voter in unable to produce any of the above documents, they can and must depose to an affidavit swearing that they are resident at a place located within the ward.

“No one should, therefore, be turned away or be denied the right to be registered as a voter on account of inadequate or lack of documents proving residence,” said Makarau.

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