Protest threats over voter registration kits

HARARE - Zimbabwe's powerful National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) yesterday threatened to hold a general protest against government’s plans to hijack the acquisition of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits to be used for the 2018 elections.

Under pressure from the opposition for reforms to ensure a fair poll by minimising errors and preventing accusations of foul play in the key 2018 poll, President Robert Mugabe’s government announced last week it was taking over the process and disallowing the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) from independently and transparently acquiring the BVR kits.

The UNDP had, after being approached by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), put in place the relevant logistical and financial requirements that would ensure a transparent and accountable process of buying the BVR kits.

A tender was floated in December where all the bidding companies had an opportunity to present their bids through a process that was digitally operated from Copenhagen in Denmark.

After this bidding process had been conducted and concluded, government then announced last week that it was joining the process.

Zec chairperson Rita Makarau told a press briefing: “It (government) will fund whatever award is given to the bidder; they will fund that acquisition of BVR kits.”

Zimbabweans United for Democracy (Zunde) president Farai Mbira, who is the rotating chairperson of the Nera alliance, told a press conference yesterday: “Nera and Coalition of Democrats (Code) have been taken aback by the government announcement that it is taking over the procurement process.

“More shocking was the decision by government to elbow out the UNDP in this process.

“Even more flabbergasting was the decision by Zec to endorse this illegal move by government. This is government now rigging the next elections and we cannot allow that to happen.”

Mbira said political parties were satisfied with the level of transparency at the stage of procuring the BVR kits but government’s move has left them concerned.

“We therefore demand that the current UNDP procurement process must proceed undisturbed,” he said.

“We call upon all Zimbabweans from all walks of life to resist this rigging. To that extent, both Nera and Code will close ranks in order to fight these attempts to manipulate the electoral process.

“A legal suit as well as massive nationwide demonstrations will be launched should the government persist with this evil agenda,” he said.

Makarau said last week out of the 12 companies which were assessed, seven of the bids were non-compliant.

A Zec technical committee is currently evaluating potential BVR kit suppliers from Israel, Canada, Belgium and Zimbabwe, and will soon shortlist three of them.

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