ZIMBABWE has the highest proportion of elderly voters in the world, according to the votersâ€™ roll being used for elections next week.
A glance at one page of the roll yesterday for a ward in the Mount Pleasant suburb of Harare turned up a Fodias Kunyepa, who was born in 1901. Over the page was Rebecca Armstrong, born 1900.
Somewhat younger was Desmond Lardner-Burke, born 1909, who was the notorious Justice minister in the rebel Rhodesian government and responsible for the harassment, arrest and detention without trial of tens of thousands of black nationalists, including President Robert Mugabe, fighting against white rule in the 1960s and 1970s.
Lardner-Burke left the country soon after the demise of the illegally constituted Rhodesian state in 1980, and the establishment of Zimbabweâ€™s independence. He died soon after, in South Africa.
Kunyepa and Armstrong are also long dead.
Opposition campaign workers say that the votersâ€™ roll is stuffed with the names of the dead, of non-existent people, of those with fake identity numbers and with names repeated numerous times in different constituencies, sometimes in the same ward.
That way, supporters of Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party will be allowed by compliant electoral officials to vote repeatedly.
â€œIt also means that when they stuff the ballot boxes, a huge majority will not appear unreasonable,â€ said one campaigner who asked not to be named.
Lardner-Burke, who was reputed to have a sense of irony, would be amused at the idea of posthumously helping Mugabe, born in 1924, to win presidential elections and go on for another five years.
â€œThereâ€™s one (person at least 100 years old) on nearly every page of the votersâ€™ roll for Mount Pleasant,â€ said Trudy Stevenson, parliamentary candidate for one of the two factions of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change (MDC).
The roll has 212 pages with 55 names on each.
Before the last elections, in 2005, the MDC was able to get hold of CDs of the votersâ€™ rolls for 12 constituencies, subjected them to digital analysis and found that 45% of the names on the list were false. Since then Tobaiwa Mudede, the Registrar-General, has kept a tight lid on the roll.
Stevenson has been fighting to get a digital list of the roll, which takes up five CDs. Under court orders, Mudede complied. He gave her 50 CDs of the roll — but as photographs that cannot be digitally analysed.
Zimbabweâ€™s electoral law also states that the winner of the presidential election has to have more than 50% of the vote. The provision took on dramatic importance when Simba Makoni, Mugabeâ€™s former Finance minister, joined Morgan Tsvangirai, the opposition leader, last month in challenging Mugabe.
Analysts say that in the event that Mugabe wins less than 50% â€” and he got only 54% in the last presidential election in 2002 â€” an alliance between the two opposition candidates would almost certainly beat him.
However, the Act also states that the one who gets a simple majority is to be declared the winner. â€œIf it turns out he doesnâ€™t get over 50%, thereâ€™s no guessing which alternative he will choose,â€ one lawyer said. â€” The Times (London).Jan Raath