ELECTION COUNTDOWN | Late voter mobilisation affects registration

HARARE - Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) chairperson Andrew Makoni says voter registration mobilisation and awareness should have started well before the BVR process kicked off as many people are still unaware of the exercise’s processes.

“In an ideal situation what should start first is voter awareness, that did not happen, and many people were unaware of these processes.

“The early birds that visited centres were not prepared as they did not have proper documents and were turned away.

“Such a situation can actually discourage those who want to register to vote come 2018.

“People are discouraged and we believe as Zesn we must get things right from the beginning,” said Makoni.

He urged Zimbabwe Election Commission (Zec) to deploy enough kits in a transparent manner that will not disadvantage particular areas.

“Perhaps Zec as they continue to roll out BVR they should ensure even distribution of voters’ registration centres to minimise distances voters have to travel. So far we only have 63 official centres.”

Makoni believes more can be done so that the public is not blocked from the process because of a lack of resources.

“As Zesn we are ready to deploy 2 000 educators who will work in various wards throughout the country. Since we have 1 950 wards, some of our educators would be mobile, hence cover as much ground as possible.

“While we might have wanted to start voter education as far back as possible, we could not do so as we had to be accredited by Zec first and I am glad that only two weeks ago we were given the green light.

“Unfortunately, it is from then that we could start planning. The letter for the actual implementation plans came from Zec only last week.

“At the moment what we can do is train the educators and have them go through the actual BVR process and then deploy them.

“But still Zec hasn’t told us how many centres there will be throughout the country — at the moment it is just guess work,” said Makoni.

Zesn has the right expertise of monitoring the BVR exercise. “We have been part of the organisations that observed the initial procurement of BVR kits here and we also have observed this process while being carried in other countries and as such we have the experience.”

Makoni was hopeful that once the remaining kits arrive in the country the process would speed up.

“Ideally when registering for an election we need three months, but for us this is creating a new voters’ register so we need four months.”

Makoni said there was need for electoral reforms. “There have been some amendments to the Electoral Act but as Zesn we say they fall short; most of our laws have to be aligned to the Constitution.

“The process has been painstakingly slow and there were just piecemeal adjustments. We still call for the alignment of these laws to the Constitution.”



Govt, NGOs urged to increase voter registration

ACTIVISTS, political parties and civic groups were urged to help in educating Zimbabweans about the biometric voter registration (BVR) process as citizens register as voters ahead of the 2018 elections.

The message came out of a voter mobilisation refresher workshop held by the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) in Harare recently.

ERC programmes manager Jack Zaba said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) alone cannot cover every nook and crevice of the country.

“Informing voters about the BVR should be the duty of everyone because no single institution can achieve it.

“Political parties who want to be voted must spread the information to their followers. Everyone must be involved,” he said.

The workshop was attended by 63 community monitors from 10 provinces.

His sentiments come amid concerns and revelations through citizen reports in different parts of the country during the BVR registration which commenced recently that many people are uninformed.

Zaba also urged voters to verify their registration slip to see if all details were correct before leaving the registration centres, adding that the BVR process would not solve all problems facing elections in Zimbabwe.

“You need to verify the information during voter registration and ensure the details that are recorded about you are correct before leaving the voter registration centre,” he said.

“As a process to clean the voters’ roll of duplications and removing the names of dead people, BVR on its own will not solve all our concerns. It will not solve issues like intimidation hence we need to find ways of monitoring and addressing that.”

On the issue of affidavit forms which people have been photocopying on their own and the absence of commissioners of oaths at some centres, Zaba said: “What Zec is supposed to do is to provide these services for free.”

With the help of the Digital Society of Zimbabwe (DSZ) director, Tawanda Mugari, the workshop unveiled a digital monitoring platform for community monitors which will be available on a mobile phone application.

ZimRights vice chairperson, Takesure Musiiwa urged people to register to vote in their numbers to counter any fears of vote manipulation.

ZimRights is running the #10x10 campaign aimed at mobilising people to register as voters.

“Government’s infiltrating of institutions that should be independent is not only a concern in Zimbabwe, but all over Africa,” he said.

“We need to find ways of countering that and register to vote in our numbers. We are going to mobilise as many people as we can. This is why ERC and ZimRights agreed to have this training to add value to the system.”

ERC training and outreach project officer Solomon Bobosibunu trained the participants on the link between democracy, good governance, constitutionalism and human rights.

It also emerged that some names of the registration centres released by Zec had errors like that of Thomas Coulter Primary School in Hwange.

Bobosibunu urged the community monitors to help indicate such discrepancies to Zec to avoid confusing prospective registrants.

There was also concern about the distance of registration centres with the example of Sanyati and Mhondoro-Ngezi, where the centre is in Kadoma.

The civil society organisations said they will investigate reports that certain people were collecting particulars of people to register them in their absence.

On the other hand, Heal Zimbabwe through its resident human rights monitors in all the country’s 10 provinces is monitoring the political environment since that proclamation.

This is being done with the objective of monitoring the environment and report on any cases of human rights violations during the process as well as making referrals where necessary for redress.

In 2016, Heal Zimbabwe established an early warning and early response system for easy detection and response to cases of human rights violations.

Heal Zimbabwe is a peace building organisation that envisions a peaceful and prosperous Zimbabwe that celebrates diversity in local communities.

The organisation is currently running a National Peace campaign:13 Million Voices For Peace #13MilVoices4Peace aimed at raising awareness on the need for peace before, during and after the 2018 elections.

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