CLOSE to half the Zimbabwean population of 11,6 million has registered to vote in election at the end of the month but opposition members complain that the voters’ roll is still a shamble
The opposition disputes the voter figures that determine the number of constituencies, accusing Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede of gerrymandering to tilt the result in the ruling party’s favour.
“The entire system is defective because there is still duplication of names. Its defectiveness has been compounded by a deliberately discriminatory policy that makes it difficult for people in urban areas to register unlike those in rural areas,” David Coltart of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) said.
The Central Statistical Office puts Zimbabwe’s population officially at 11 631 657, broken down as 3,55 million and 2,39 million people of voting age in rural and urban areas respectively. The rural population comprises 65% of the total, according to the 2002 national census.
The official number of 5,66 million registered voters for this month’s poll outstrips those who registered in the last election by more than 668 000, representing 100,41% of registered voters in the landmark election of 2000. In those polls, the governing Zanu PF lost heavily in Matabeleland and most urban areas with the opposition winning nearly half of the 120 parliamentary seats.
Out of an eligible 5 955 877 people above the age of 18 years, nearly 298 000 did not bother to register and claim their vote for the March 31 polls.
Coltart accused Mudede of manipulating the voters’ roll to influence the Delimitation Commission to reduce constituencies in provinces where Zanu PF has less support.
He cited the inclusion of more than 13 000 voters in Uzumba-Maramba-Pfungwe constituency and understating those in Bulawayo South notwithstanding the phenomenal growth in population sizes in the working-class suburbs of Umganwini and Nketa.
A constituency each was cleaved from Bulawayo, Harare and Matabeleland South provinces where the opposition MDC drew most of its support in the last election, while rural Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West and Manicaland which form the bulwark of the ruling party support, save for Chipinge South, gained a constituency each.
Figures released by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network this week reveal that although Harare registered 33 000 more voters for this year’s election than in 2000, the number of constituencies decreased from 19 to 18 while Mashonaland Central whose figures shot up by more than 71 000 voters did not gain an additional constituency.
“It defies logic and runs contrary to government documented statistics that a third of the population would drift from urban to rural areas when it is evident the opposite is true,” he said
Manicaland on the other hand registered a marginal increase of 10 366 registered voters but the province gained one more constituency in sharp contrast to Mashonaland East which gained 93 898 more voters -— a twofold increase compared to the average constituency average — gained a single constituency too.
The average for each of the 120 constituencies is 48 000 voters for this year while in 2000 the average per constituency was 42 000.
Mashonaland Central also has the highest average voter per constituency at 49 000 in comparison to Masvingo’s average of 32 000. However, there are more than 79 000 additional voters registered for this month’s poll in Masvingo than did five years ago.
An analysis of the registered voter figures reveals that additional constituencies were created in provinces where the rural vote tipped the 2000 plebiscite in favour of President Robert Mugabe’s party.
Provinces such as Mashonaland Central where Zanu PF is assured of emphatic victories have been left untouched despite recording steep increases in the number of registered voters.
Independent candidate for Harare Central, Margaret Dongo, lambasted the
government for maintaining a shambled voters’ roll despite a High Court judgement in 1995 instructing the state to ensure that the roll be rectified.
Dongo won a case in the court against Vivian Mwashita to reclaim the Sunningdale seat she had “lost” to her compatriot.
“Government is reluctant to rectify the anomalies inherent in the voters’ roll, most probably so that they can manipulate it. As opposition we should sit down and compel government to put in place an authentic voters’ roll even if it means expropriating resources from other sector ministries,” she said.