Tsvangirai struggles to register children

HARARE - Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai yesterday came face-to-face with the hassles Zimbabweans are facing in the ongoing chaotic voter registration exercise as he took his 18-year-old twins to register as first time voters.

It took about 30 minutes for the MDC leader to complete a process in which his children were initially denied registration as voters ostensibly because they did not have proof of residence.

This is despite Cabinet agreeing to broaden the documents required for proof of residence to include personal affidavits, any bill with an address or letter from employer, bank statements, or registration certificate for mobile phones, or medical bills.

The MDC leader wanted to register his twins at Mount Pleasant District Office in Harare, where officials from the Registrar General’s office demanded more documents in addition to identity cards.

Frustrated, the MDC leader had to write two letters confirming that his children, who turned 18 this year, live under his roof in Highlands, but that did not convince officials.

The PM’s twins were told to bring utility bills to the office of the RG before collecting their registration slips.

Despite the fact that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has relaxed the stringent voter registration requirements, officials from the RG’s office are having none of it and have turned away hundreds of people who fail to provide proof of residence.

The on-going mobile voter registration phase has been moving in fits and starts leaving many Zimbabweans hopeful to partake in the forthcoming elections frustrated.

After seeing his two children try to register and being told to bring proof of residence before they are confirmed as voters, Tsvangirai said a one-month compulsory voter registration exercise will make things right.

“I took my twin children to encourage first time voters to register,” Tsvangirai told reporters. “We want to make sure that no one is disenfranchised. I am aware of the challenges that voters are facing in the ongoing mobile voter registration exercise.

“After the signing of the constitution, there will be a mandatory one-month voter registration exercise and everyone should ensure they are registered during that period.”

The bottlenecks faced by Tsvangirai and his children are a familiar tale in the ongoing mobile voter registration, an important process ahead of crunch polls — as thousands of people who include aliens have been turned away by officials while scores of civil society actors have been arrested for encouraging eligible Zimbabweans to register as voters.

Despite the fact that government has agreed that an affidavit is enough to qualify first time voters to register, the situation experienced by Tsvangirai yesterday proves that the process is far from smooth.

The homeless, fatherless and those who cannot write could be left from the critical process, Tsvangirai noted.

“What about other people who cannot write and those who do not own houses what will happen to them?” Tsvangirai asked.

Cabinet has already agreed on a fresh mobile voter registration exercise that Tsvangirai says would take a month, a timeframe that would leave Mugabe’s preferred June 29 election dream hanging by the thread.

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