'Unprepared Zim stampedes into elections'

HARARE - The new voter registration process expected to start this Thursday may fail to kick off smoothly as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is yet to take delivery of the bulk of required biometric voter registration (BVR) kits.

Zec has said it took delivery of the first batch of 400 of an expected 3 000 BVR kits last week with the rest expected this month end.

At the same time, election observers feel the process could be marred by legal hurdles as the cut-off date for voter registration is not in line with the Electoral Act which provides for continuous registration until 12 days after nomination day.

President Robert Mugabe last Friday ordered the new registration of voters in all wards and constituencies to commence on September 14 running up to January 15, 2018.

“If biometric registration is to start soon, Zec needs to clarify a great number of issues on which the public is confused,” Law watchdog Veritas said yesterday.

“There should be a clear procedural manual that they follow and this should be made available to the public.

“The Electoral Act needs to be brought into line with the Constitution, immediately. Otherwise confusion and lack of transparency may result in a Kenya situation.”

Following Mugabe’s proclamation, voters who are registered on an existing voters’ roll will have to apply for re-registration on a new roll.

As the law now stands this entails proving their identity to a voter registration officer, though they will not have to prove citizenship or provide proof of residence.

They will, however, be expected to allow their biometric particulars to be recorded.

“There is a problem here which will have to be sorted out before registration starts,” Veritas said.

“The only way of checking whether those who claim to be already on a voters’ roll and produce their proof of identity, is by checking them against the existing voters’ roll.  But Zec has denied they have the complete existing rolls,” Veritas said.

But Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini says the commission should have taken stakeholders on a tour of the recently-acquired kits if at all they are sincere.

“We are appearing to be stampeding into elections when the necessary preparations have not been put in place.

“There is no clear road map with clear time lines of when certain things are supposed to happen…hence those who should provide oversight over the process cannot hold Zec accountable,” Chimhini said.

Mugabe’s proclamation comes as Zec is working towards holding the 2018 polls between June and August although the elections management body has been quick to point out that ultimately that decision lies with the president.

Zec has waded into the poll-date debate as the officialdom in the ruling Zanu PF party is increasingly getting confident at the prospect of Mugabe calling for early elections to catch his rivals flat footed.

The commission needs $274 million to hold the 2018 elections, which many observers doubt would be available in view of the budgetary constraints facing Treasury.

Mugabe’s administration has, however, never run short of creative ideas to get around its financial quagmire, never mind their toxic effects in future.

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