'Voters' roll must be accessed free of charge'

HARARE - Limiting access to the voters’ roll by attaching exorbitant costs to it suggests an attempt to conceal it from stakeholders, an election watchdog has said.

Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) charges $100 000 to political parties who want to have access to a copy of the voters’ roll.

Election Resource Centre, ERC director Tawanda Chimhi said: “If ZEC is sincere about making future elections transparent and being accountable to stakeholders, consideration should be given to making voters’ roll accessible free of charge to stakeholders. It’s a cost that is necessary if the credibility of our elections is at stake.

“Making the cost prohibitive limits access to the roll and ultimately mitigates against the capacity of election stakeholders to hold election authorities accountable. The principle must be able to make it as accessible as is possible.”

Meanwhile, Chimhini said the electoral regulations as drafted and shared by Zec for feedback by stakeholders is a welcome development coming as it does on the backdrop of limited stakeholder engagement on the rules and procedures laid down for elections in the past.

“That being said the draft regulations generally indicate a departure from the past in some cases while glaring gaps have been noted in others.

“The ERC contends that regulations for voter registration must, among other things, provide clarity on how voter registration will be administered, limit discretionary powers to registration officials which could be subject to bias, and make voter registration as accessible as possible to all Zimbabweans eligible to vote.

“As we consider the drafted regulations and engage Zec on improving the proposals, we note that regulations alone may not be adequate in enhancing the conduct of our elections in the future.”

The ERC director said on one hand, the regulations must be informed by an Electoral Act that fully complies with the Constitution while on the hand they should be supported by comprehensive procedures which clearly define the operational issues.

“Additionally, the regulations must be implemented by a transparently recruited voter registration personnel who must be adequately trained and have the capacity to discharge their duties professionally. Furthermore, the regulations must be complemented by an electoral environment that is conducive for the free participation of Zimbabweans in the voter registration process.

“Contrary to assertions that Zec does not hold a brief on enforcing a free environment for electoral processes, the Constitution suggests otherwise.”

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