GOVERNMENT this week announced stringent requirements that are set to curtail the voting rights of many Zimbabweans in the forthcoming legislative poll as the registrar-general’s office open
ed the voters’ roll for inspection.
This came as opposition parties and civic groups stepped up efforts to have a review of the voters’ register, which they said was a “shambles”.
Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede announced that urban dwellers, the opposition party’s main supporters, would be required, among other things, to produce proof of residence. This could take the form of title deeds, rates receipts, utility receipts or written statements from landlords or employers.
But many city dwellers do not own properties as they live in makeshift
structures dotted around the city.
In rural areas, voters would be required to bring sworn oral or written statements from their chiefs or headmen, who are now part and parcel of Zanu PF’s campaign machinery. Meanwhile, the RG’s office on Monday published 26 pages in the state-owned Herald newspaper of “persons who supplied incomplete/incorrect residential addresses when they registered as voters”.
Those deemed to have supplied the incomplete or incorrect information are from Mutasa (484 voters), Harare East (268), Harare North (136), Hatfield (208), Mbare (1 143), Mufakose (219), Goromonzi (270), Murehwa North (499), Murehwa South (1 609), Mutoko South (590), Ngezi (235) and Zvimba South (223).
The notice added: “Please be advised that failure to report as requested and directed within 14 days from this date will result in the constituency registrars removing the voter’s name from the voters’ roll in accordance with Section 25 of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:01).”
Political analyst Emmanuel Magade said the RG’s office was trying to disenfranchise many eligible voters.
“That notice was only published once in the Herald and obviously this is not the most effective way of notifying the people who provided the so-called incorrect details as alleged by the RG,” Magade said.
“A close analysis of the details will reveal that the largest number of people who allegedly provided incorrect details live in known MDC strongholds such as Mbare and the greater part of Harare. And the RG wants to strike their names from the voters’ roll. It is wrong.”
Lovemore Madhuku, chairman of the National Constitutional Assembly (NCA), a broad-based coalition of civic groups, said the voters’ roll would be no different to the one used in the 2002 presidential election, which was condemned as “flawed” by most observers.
“The roll is a shambles,” Madhuku said. “Over the years the RG’s office has added more names but not totally reformed the roll. We have had cases of deceased people appearing on the roll, people being registered in the wrong constituencies, or others simply failing to find their names.”
Mudede announced that his department would prepare the roll according to the new constituency boundaries drawn up by the Delimitation Commission. He said presently, Zimbabwe had 5 658 637 eligible voters.
However, Madhuku alleged that it was impossible for the authorities to compile an accurate roll in time for the March election due to lack of resources. He said in the absence of an independent electoral body, the authorities could manipulate the voting process.
“We could have hoped for a credible roll if the proposed Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had been appointed. Even if the ZEC were to be appointed today, I don’t think there would be any changes, since its head will be a presidential appointee, and therefore partial,” Madhuku said.
Reginald Matchaba-Hove, chairman of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, said this was a “worrying development”.
Mudede, however, said: “Those questioning the accuracy of the roll are free to go and inspect it, with the rest of the country, during the inspection period. The (RG’s) office has a mandate to conduct elections, and will do so until such a time that the new electoral commission is appointed. I cannot comment on statements alleging irregularities because we have not gone through the inspection process as yet.”