ZRP overturns ban on BVR

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) has overturned its surprising decision to temporarily ban all police officers from registering to vote in next year’s elections — a move which had raised fears that thousands of its officers would fail to cast their ballots in the much-anticipated polls.

As exclusively revealed by the Daily News  last month,  the ZRP informed its strong force that they were temporarily not to register in the ongoing biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise and insisted that there should be another arrangement to allow police officers to vote following the recent outlawing of the special voting provision under which they voted in 2013.

Amendments to section 22A of the Electoral Act introduced a precise polling station-based voters’ roll in which one can only vote at one specific polling station — where one’s name appears; thereby effectively eliminating the special voting provision.

In a memorandum to its officers, the ZRP said they were free to register for the elections and would be allowed to vote at any polling station they would have been deployed to work at.

“This memorandum serves to inform and direct that voter registration for officers and members should commence.

“In view of the fact that the deadline for (the second phase of) biometric registration (blitz) is 19 December 2017, commanders are therefore directed to ensure that all officers are registered by  December 5, 2017.

“When registering, officers and members should use affidavits which show that the area of residence is the station, post of base near the polling station from which they will be posted and cast their votes.

“The matter should be treated with the urgency it deserves,” ZRP said in a memorandum dated November 27.

However, some disgruntled police officers told the Daily News that the order would disadvantage them, especially when selecting preferred local authority and legislative candidates.

“Officers will be forced to vote in the constituency they are deployed, hence they will vote for candidates they do not know in a constituency they do not stay.

“This is supposed to be a matter of choice. You can’t participate in voting for an MP you don’t know, of what use is that?” queried one police officer who preferred anonymity for professional reasons.

In October, the ZRP chief staff officer in charge of operations — senior assistant commissioner Douglas Nyakutsikwa — informed all police officers that they were not allowed to register as voters until further notice.

“The memorandum serves to advise commanders that police officers should temporarily suspend their registration on the biometric voter registration (BVR) that is currently underway.

“Previously, police officers were privileged to vote through a special vote system that has since been repelled. The current scenario requires a prospective voter, including police officers, to register at places where they are going to cast their votes — which is prohibitive in terms of our deployments during the voting dates.

“Currently, solutions are being sought with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to address the anomaly,” Nyakutsikwa said in a memo dated October 24, 2017.

Amendments to section 22A of the Electoral Act outlawed special voting as it introduced a precise polling station-based voters’ roll in which one can only vote at one specific polling station.

Starting with next year’s elections, it is no longer possible to allow special voting as was the case in previous elections.

The special vote had traditionally been organised to allow civil servants and police officers to vote ahead of the general public, as they would be working on the actual days of polling.

In July 2013, and two weeks ahead of voting by the general public, the special vote was rocked by chaotic scenes which saw thousands of police officers and civil servants failing to vote.