Voter outrage

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has admitted that the on-going voter registration exercise is chaotic, as information emerges that there is growing consensus in government that Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede is doing a shoddy job and should be fired.

Zec chairperson Rita Makarau told church leaders in Harare yesterday that: “We accept that there are gaps between what we are saying and what is happening on the ground.”

Another Zec commissioner, Petty Makoni, said she witnessed “sad scenes” in Mashonaland Central Province.
“When we went out yesterday, we were saddened by what was on the ground but there was nothing we could do,” said Makoni.

Zec says voter registration is in the hands of Mudede and  Zec can do little to influence the process. Some of the church leaders who attended the meeting told Zec that their members are failing to register as voters because of stringent requirements by Mudede’s officers.

This comes as government insiders said a meeting of top Cabinet ministers this week roundly condemned the on-going voter registration exercise.

Zanu PF ministers who have previously defended Mudede are also outraged after finding irregularities on the voters’ rolls for their constituencies, a situation that has made them question Mudede’s competency for the job, the Daily News was told.

Mudede was not available for comment but he has previously said the country’s voters’ roll is one of the best in the world.

But chaotic scenes continuing to dog the on-going voter registration exercise in several parts of the country have left some of his staunchest backers doubting.

Civil society has also slammed the process that has seen thousands of potential voters being turned away.

The chaos continued this week and in Chitungwiza’s Unit L suburb, irate residents vowed to lock up officials from the Registrar General’s office who they accused of dragging their feet.

After waiting in queues for eternity, some for over five hours, and stomachs rumbling with hunger, tempers flared among residents of the populous town who had braved the chilly weather.

With a baby hanging precariously on her back and apparently furious at the winding queue of at least 400 people, Beulah Nduna threatened to take matters into her own hands on Tuesday.

“Ndinopika kudai, mangwana havamubude umu kana vasina kupedza kutiregister (I swear, they will not leave this place until they register us). I have been coming here since the process started but I have not managed to register,” she fumed.

The chaotic mobile voter registration process began two weeks ago and has been blighted by several impediments that have sparked an outcry from not only civil society but from political parties and the general public.

Those anxious to get identity documents and birth certificates were also frustrated by officials.

“I was here by 2am and it is now almost 1pm,” said Precious Mutake, 21, a first time voter.

“I need an ID before I can register but I am thinking of going back home because I am now really hungry. Only a few people have been selected to go inside, now the line is not moving because some are also just coming from home straight into the office to get their papers sorted.”

Goodwill Mafuratidze, a Zanu PF councillor, warned on Tuesday that patience was wearing thin.

“Only tomorrow is left for the thousands of people from the seven wards who have not registered,” Mafuratidze said.

The mobile stations left the town yesterday.

Mafuratidze continued: “They have lost patience. I have been pulled by these people demanding answers when I wanted to leave. Why did government commit to this process if there were not enough resources, not enough labour and time to cater for the rights of these people?

“The process is slow; the staff is inadequate, rude and arrogant. These civil servants should stay at home and let interested people do the job. Regardless of political affiliation or of whether they are going to vote or not, every citizen has a right to identity particulars and they have a right to demand them.”

The constituency covers seven wards.

Despite the fact that officials from the Zec — the body in charge of electoral processes — toured the area, according to Mafuratidze, there was no improvement.

Amid the meandering queues, some wistfully looked through the windows admiring colleagues who had passed the first hurdle.

But inside, the queues were sluggish, forcing some people to hold an indaba on the sidelines pondering their next move.

With dates for the shambolic mobile voter registration process drawing to a close, civil society groups such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) and the Elections Resource Centre (ERC)  say authorities should increase the number of voter registration centres otherwise millions will be disenfranchised.

A report by election watchdog Zesn paints a sad picture for the country’s efforts to hold free and fair election.

Zimbabwe is set to hold elections anytime this year but already the process has been hobbled by the chaotic mobile voter registration exercise, with Cabinet having concluded that a fresh process should be embarked upon soon after the new constitution sails through Parliament.

A police blitz has also targeted civil society actors mobilising people to register as voters and conducting voter education.

Tawanda Chimhini, the director of the ERC, said there is need for a restart of the process.

“Voter education should begin after proclamation and yet people are being arrested,” Chimhini said.

“The Zec is not doing voter education and those who are trying to do something are running into all sorts of trouble. There is no clarity as to where people would find the mobile stations.”

In a statement assessing the mobile voter registration process, Zesn says many have been left out of the process.

“Indications from the various parts of the country have shown that there are a number of challenges regarding personnel, funds and other resources resulting in some areas not being fully covered by the exercise,” the Zesn report says.

“Zesn notes with concern the failure to publicise the process in the public media before commencement of the registration exercise.

Therefore, there is lack of adequate information regarding the registration centres, registration dates and the requirements for registration, which has seen a considerable number of people being turned away at the point of registration, while others are not even aware that such an exercise is on-going.”

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, who is in an uneasy power-sharing government with President Robert Mugabe, on Monday, had a first-hand experience of the hassles first-time voters are faced with when he tried to register his 18-year-old twins. - Wendy Muperi and Fungi Kwaramba

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