'Zec must lift restrictions on observers'

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must lift restrictions on observers to allow effective participation in the site validation test of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) said yesterday.

This comes after Zec laid out strict conditions for those accredited to observe the BVR kits site validation tests.

Briefing the media in Harare on Wednesday, the commission’s chairperson Rita Makarau said the observers — political parties and civil society organisations — were not allowed to ask any questions or interview bidders and assessors.

ERC said Zec must seriously respect the principle of transparency.

“Zec must open up space for the electorate, civil society, political parties, media and development agencies . . . this will not only rekindle the fledgling spirit of engagement through continued creation of platforms for engagement with key stakeholders, but will go a long way in enhancing transparency, inclusivity and integrity of the electoral processes,” the lobby group said in a statement.

“Zec is hereby urged to put in place mechanisms that allow effective participation and engagement of all electoral stakeholders. Electoral stakeholders must constantly be consulted and be informed about all electoral processes in line with Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which provides that ‘Zec must ensure that elections are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law’,” the ERC said in a statement.

Two companies will make presentations and test their kits in laboratories and in the field, during the five-day process.

The bidders are Chinese firm Laxton Group Limited and Dermalog Identification Systems from Germany.

Another shortlisted bidder, ZETES from Belgium, withdrew for unknown reasons.

According to Makarau, the tests must conform with supplied specifications which include having a laptop, webcam, light source, photo background material, fingerprint scanner, thermal printer and solar power kit among others will be under scrutiny.

The field tests will be conducted on April 24, in Harare in Seke on April 25. The field tests will see 150 pupils from each school below 18 participate in a mock BVR exercise. Shock and waterproof tests will also be conducted.

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