Clean voters' roll key for credible poll results

HARARE - Since the arrival of multiparty democracy in Zimbabwe, the opposition has consistently alleged that President Robert Mugabe’s ruling Zanu PF was tinkering with electoral outcomes.

One of the most common complaints has been that details of dead voters were used to sway the results. Zanu PF’s main rival, Morgan Tsvangirai’s Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), consistently accused the 93-year-old Mugabe’s party of committing “monumental fraud” in past elections, in part through a massively flawed voters’ register.

Many past attempts by the electoral management body to clean up the register have failed to end the suspicion.

The sanctity of elections is premised on the integrity of the electoral register. Part of the electoral reforms envisaged under the global political agreement that created the Government of National Unity in 2009 was the creation of clean and reliable lists.

This is why biometric registration has been introduced to create a valid database.

However, concerns persist about the quality of the voter data. Currently, the Registrar-General’s office has rolled out a countrywide exercise to issue birth, death and national registration certificates to people.

There are reports that people are being asked to pay no less than $10 to replace a lost national ID.

So-called aliens are also being charged no less than $50 for a new national ID confirming that they are Zimbabwean citizens who will be entitled to register to vote.

This is coming at a time the majority of Zimbabweans are surviving on less than $1 per day.

We agree with the MDC that it is unfair to expect poverty-stricken people to fork out these rather exorbitant amounts of money in order to access new national IDs.

No eligible Zimbabwean citizen should be denied a national ID simply because they are too poor to pay for the acquisition of such an important document. Therefore, IDs should be issued for free or at a very nominal rate.

Zec must listen to concerns of its key stakeholders, mainly political parties, civil society and relevant government agencies to enhance trust in the electoral process. Parliament must also take it upon itself to align the existing laws with the current needs of the country by enacting laws that will link the State agencies that hold the critical registration records and share the data in their possession.

With the loopholes in the ongoing national mobile registration process now laid bare, it behooves Zec, which is charged with ensuring the credibility of the voters’ register, to seal them and ensure the country heads to the general election with a clean and verifiable register.

Zec must thoroughly refine its systems in readiness for the election. We need to vaccinate this country against another contested election outcome.

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