THE scheduled March 2008 harmonised elections should be postponed to a later date during the year to allow for the mobilisation of adequate human and f
inancial resources for the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, the Registrar-General’s Office and the police to efficiently carry out their roles, political observers have said.
They said last week’s report to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs by the RG’s chief accountant, Edwell Mutemaringa, that his office required $3,5 trillion to print the voters roll and over $8 billion to settle bills before year-end was a cause for concern as elections were ostensibly only three months away.
Only $735 billion was allocated for preparation for the elections in the 2007 supplementary budget announced by Finance minister Samuel Mumbengegwi in September.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson, Noel Kututwa, said the RG’s office, which is carrying out a voter registration mop-up exercise until November 15, needed adequate time and funds to compile the voters roll which should be subsequently inspected by the electorate before the polls in terms of set regulations.
He also pointed out that the ZEC, which is not fully staffed, was yet to start the delimitation process which in the past normally took over six months but was now expected to take less than three months for 210 constituencies.
Kututwa said the ZEC had so far appointed senior managers and needed to recruit more operatives, a situation that would affect preparations for the polls.
The Zimbabwe Republic Police, which should provide at least four officers per polling station in terms of the law, wants to increase its force from the current 25 000 to about 60 000 as part of next year’s elections.
However, the police force was allocated a mere $1,5 trillion for all its operations.
Deputy Commissioner Levy Sibanda told the same portfolio committee that from the budgetary vote, the ZRP had only $85 billion left in its coffers and that it was battling to service its debts and meet its other obligations like buying uniforms for recruits.
Kututwa said the failure by the government to adequately finance the RG’s office to prepare the voters roll and police recruitment was a clear testimony that Zimbabwe was unprepared for next March’s elections.
“A lot still needs to be done. Delimitation is yet to start,” he said. “We have not seen any action on the ground despite the announcement by the ZEC chairperson (Justice George Chiweshe) last week. Considering that there is an increased number of constituencies, more personnel is needed for the exercise as well as voter education as there will be new boundaries.
“The inspection of the voters roll is very important and this will require more time against the backdrop of the delayed compilation of the voters roll. If the elections are held in March as scheduled, I foresee a lot of logistical problems. I think there is need to postpone them to a later date if they are to be run more efficiently.”
Kututwa said because of the increased number of constituencies and the tripartite polls, more ballot boxes and papers, voting booths and other related materials were needed.
He said the acquisition of these materials would take time.
“The coming elections will be quite involving given the increased number of candidates and constituencies and there will be need for intensive voter education by ZEC and other stakeholders. There has been a slow response to the ongoing mop-up exercise, which I attribute to lack of publicity, especially on radio,” Kututwa said.
“The advertisements which were placed in the print media were limited because of reduced print runs of local papers of late and the majority of people in rural areas do not have access to them. The electronic media, particularly radio, has not been effectively used and the voter educators deployed to the areas are not enough. This area should be stepped up in the coming exercises.”
Over 109 900 new voters were registered during the initial registration exercise between June 18 and August 17.
The opposition MDC called for an extension of the exercise and 939 areas nationwide were identified as having not been adequately covered.
MDC spokesman Nelson Chamisa said the RG’s report to the committee vindicated his party’s concerns that the institutions charged with preparing for elections lacked the necessary capacity.
He said there was need for ZEC to be reconstituted and for government to provide adequate funding for the various institutions involved in elections to ensure credibility and public confidence in the electoral process.
Chamisa however pointed out that the question of the timing of the elections was a matter that could only be determined by the outcome of the ongoing talks between Zanu PF and the MDC being mediated by South African president Thabo Mbeki.
“This is one of the many issues being discussed under the ongoing talks.” Chamisa said. “However, it is clear that ZEC and the RG’s office do not have the capacity to run the elections and this is a worrisome development. That is the reason why this matter is being resolved through dialogue.
“By making those announcements (RG’s report) people’s confidence in the electoral process is eroded. The situation is not good enough. The ongoing mop-up exercise is being