HARARE - Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ) president Elton Mangoma has said the mooted Biometric Voting System (BVS) will not vaccinate the elections against poll rigging and will be futile without addressing the fear factor among voters.
He said there must be wholesale reform of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission secretariat, said to be stuffed with intelligence and military officials, before anyone gets excited about the envisaged voting system.
His sentiments come as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) claims it has engaged three electoral experts to assist implement the biometric voting system ahead of 2018 elections.
“We as RDZ are very much against its introduction, particularly at this time and we urge other political parties and civil society to think long and hard before they endorse BVS,” Mangoma told the Daily News.
He said BVS’ main advantage is to curb duplicate voting, but said it is by far not the main method used by Zanu PF and Zec to rig the election.
“The main method used remains the people in the Zec and the electoral system they use,” he said.
“Zanu PF are masters at intimidating the voters. A BVS accompanied by computers and the whole backup equipment, will easily be a new handy way and not physically violent way of intimidating voters.
“In the past, Zanu PF would intimidate voters using cell phones, now the BVS gadgets are more sophisticated and intrusive. The intimidation will be worse.”
Mangoma said BVS is computer software which is vulnerable to failure and manipulation.
“A computer system can be manipulated and very few if any of the political parties and civil society have any skill to detect such manipulation,” he said.
“This will be giving Zanu PF and Zec a free hand to rig with the permission of the political parties. Colleagues, you cannot control what you do not know.
“Zanu PF and Zec control the passwords and any override authority. These are the very people whom the Zimbabwean people do not trust.
“They can alter the data at any time. Remember whoever has the authority to add a voter’s data can change or delete it and none of us can ever detect it.”
In Nigeria’s last election, the system failed to recognise Goodluck Jonathan, the then president, with Mangoma saying it was a clear indication of the system’s shortfall.
“History tells us that where BVS has been used in Africa, voting extended to more than one day due to technical failures,” he said.
“A computer system requires electrical power, which is extremely short in Zimbabwe. Many of the rural polling stations have no electricity and are far from any facilities.
“A computer can fail, power can go and any backup, if any, provided, can also fail. We cannot ignore the fact that the system has a lot of technicalities, which Zimbabwe is not yet well versed with as we are still lagging behind technology wise.
As a way forward, the RDZ president wants to see voter registration being continuous as dictated by the Electoral Act.
He also called on the ruling party to begin showing its sincerity to electoral reforms by firing Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede.
“All primary schools should be turned into voter registration centres. Every Zimbabwean has a right to vote and therefore voter registration should not be used as a way of denying citizens their right to vote,” he said.
“It is RDZ’s position that opposition parties should be involved in the whole voting process and this entails printing of ballot papers, serialisation, distribution, voting, auditing and placement of election agents. This would help in ensuring transparency of, and bring confidence to the whole election process.”