BVR abuse concerns escalate

HARARE - Independent observers and poll monitors have reported a marked increase in interference and abuse of the on-going biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise by the ruling Zanu PF in the countryside.

In a report released this week, Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) noted that Zanu PF officials and traditional leaders abused the registration process by intimidating the rural folk, despite safety assurances by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).

This comes as political parties have also written to Zec complaining about intimidation being experienced at registration centres.

On the other hand, religious groups have raised concerns over the conduct of some officers whom they say are failing to respect their practices.

According to the report, the worst violations were in the month of October and were recorded in Mashonaland Central Province, where village heads and Zanu PF officials allegedly took down serial numbers of the prospective voters’ registration slips as soon as they completed the process.

“For example, HZT notes, in Mt Darwin North ward 4, village head and a member of the Zanu PF youth league identified as Kudzanai Mutemamombe on October 26, 2017 forced community members to submit serial numbers of their registration slips at Kapiriri Primary School while his colleague identified as John Karikoga, told community members at the same school that the BVR kits would record videos as people vote in the 2018 elections. He further stated that the information will be used to detect who would have voted for the opposition, and retribution would follow after the polls.”

The same method of intimidation was employed in Mbire, Bindura, Muzarabani, Mazowe and Chiweshe.

Other cases recorded by the organisation include that of village head Bonas Magodhi from Makonde village, Chivi ward 22, who admitted to collecting serial numbers but later highlighted that he was not aware of what the registration slips were going to be used for.

He further highlighted that the directive came from the Zanu PF district chairperson Saul Matambu.

In Buhera ward 19, village head Ephius Dzingirai also admitted to have collected serial numbers of the voter registration slips, a directive he claimed he got from the Zanu PF district chairperson Douglas Musakaruka.

In Hurungwe ward 24, village head secretary David Magodo admitted to have compiled list of serial numbers and highlighted that all the village heads in the ward collected the serial numbers unbeknown of the implications thereof.

HZT said it “has observed that the BVR related human rights violations being recorded across the country points to the lack of a robust voter education exercise. An extensive voter education campaign by Zec would have helped to demystify the falsehoods, myths and threats being peddled around the BVR process”.

BeTheChange leader Fadzayi Mahere has written to Zec complaining of inconsistencies, among them pre-signed proof of residence forms and kits arriving late.

Muslim women have also been complaining about being made to remove their head scarfs during the process.

In response, Zec said it was applying the same requirements to everyone “and does not discriminate on grounds of religion or any other social affiliation”.

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