Babies, the dead on voters roll

Wongai Zhangazha


AS Zimbabwe prepares for a general election later this year, the country’s shambolic voters’ roll contains dozens of names of people born in 1897, thousands of children under 18 years of age and babies born in 2007. 

According to two audits of the March 2008 voters’ roll, one by an independent analyst and another by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn), the roll also contains thousands of ghost voters.

Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has, since 2000, accused Zanu PF and the Registrar-General’s office of using the chaotic voters’ roll to rig elections in favour of President Robert Mugabe and his former ruling party.

The MDC and civic organisations have been pushing for a raft of electoral reforms, among them empowering an independent electoral commission to audit the existing voters’ roll, conduct voter registration and administer the polls.

The independent analyst’s audit revealed that there were 26 475 people aged 100 years and above, of which 17 475 were 107 years old.

It also showed that there were 5 600 children below 18 years old, who included babies born between 2005 and 2007, on the roll.

There were 93 children below one year old, who included Mildah Nehuhambi from Chief Nyashanu Nehuhambi’s village, Buhera, who was born on February 25 2007, Argentina Vurahore born on January 17 2007 from Kambuyuni village, Gokwe, and Mhurai Mavuto born on February 12 the same year.

Excerpts of the March 2008 voters’ roll for a ward in Mutare West in Marange, included names like Bumhiwa Pachawo who was born in 1898. Some of those born in 1897 were Zvichamunetsa Dikita from Tivaringire village in Zaka East, Chiriseri Sansly Munyukwe from Mutumiri Kraal, Headman Nyamangara, Chief Zvimba and Derina Shiringo from Chikomba East.

If Zimbabwe is to go by the 2008 voters’ roll, then it probably deserves to be included in the Guinness Book of Records as having the highest number of elderly people aged 107 years and over. According to the online encyclopedia Wikipedia, the oldest person in the world is believed to be 114-year-old Eunice Sanborn of America, who was born on July 20 1896.

One source who was part of the team that undertook the audit said: “This makes one wonder how a child between one and three years can be found on the voters’ roll. We know very well that voter registration in this country is done manually, where one is required to have a valid passport or national identification (ID) and proof of residence. I assume the one-year-olds went with their IDs to register.”

Extracts show that most of the people aged above 98 years and children aged between one and three years were from rural constituencies such as Bargain Estates-Selous in Chegutu, Manyoni Resettlement in Kadoma, Saunyama in Nyanga, Hama in Chirumanzi and Hwedza.

The independent audit of the voters’ roll which included ghost voters, duplication of names and babies came at a time when Zesn has produced its own report, which was launched yesterday, also revealing that a significant number of ghost voters still exist on the voter’s roll.

Zesn took a sample size of 102 wards of 1 958 in Zimbabwe and did a comparison of registered voters between 2008 and 2010 to test the voters’ roll accuracy, currency and comprehensiveness.

Some of the sampled wards were in Mutare South, Bikita South, Shamva North, Bindura North, Guruve South, Muzarabani North, Mount Darwin North, Zvimba, Mhondoro Ngezi and Mutoko South.

Three tests were used to conduct the analysis, namely a computer test, a list-to-people field test and a people-to-list test, an analysis of the voters roll.

According to the audit report, the list to people test showed that 27% of voters registered on the voters’ roll were deceased while the computer test disclose 2 344 people born between 1900 and 1909 therefore aged between 101 and 110-years-old.

The Zesn analysis shows that nine born between 1890 and 1899, aged between 111 and 120 years old in 2008, were also on the voters’ roll.

“Overall, the presence of close to a third of registered voters who are ghost voters revealed by the list-to-people audit, has always been a concern to most Zimbabweans. This is a clear indication that no serious efforts have been taken to update and cleanse the national voters’ roll of persons that should not be on the roll,” read the report.

 “The presence of more aged ghost voters is a clear reflection of an inherent problem in the voters` roll which has been accumulating over time. Broadly, the two reasons explained above (deaths and migration) account to the majority of ghost voters in the national voters’ roll. Therefore, a fresh voter registration exercise should target such crucial areas, whilst also focusing on age specific dynamics.”

 Zesn said while it was mandatory for the government to continuously update the voters’ roll, “such a crucial exercise has not been meticulously undertaken in Zimbabwe”.

Last month at a press conference, Register-General Tobaiwa Mudede said since August his office was updating the voters’ roll and so far 32 000 cases of expired voters had been found. He said the updating was a process hence would take time.

The Zesn audit observed lower voter participation among youths aged 18-30 years who consisted of only 18% from the computer test, while old age (71 plus) showed a total of 9% or 32 901 of registered voters.

 Mashonaland East recorded a large number of “grandparents” age group (16%) while Manicaland registered 14%, and Bulawayo and Midlands 13% each.

“Such findings fly against the population demographics in Zimbabwe, with a life expectancy now of 45.779 years. This figure ie 32 901, underestimates the total national voters’ roll population of people aged 71+, as such the audit findings are from a small sample size of only 102 wards.”

“Such findings are inconsistent with the age distribution of the national population, where only 3,9% of Zimbabweans are aged 65+10. Going by this, the proportion of the 71+ should even be smaller.”

“Additionally, with Zimbabweans’  low average life expectancy of only 45,77 years; such a finding is divorced from the real life situation,” says the audit adding that the small younger generation could be a result of the consequence of the HIV and Aids pandemic,” reads the audit report.

The legal framework was blamed for having a number of loopholes especially in the deletion of voters from the voters’ roll which may deprive the right to vote to some voters.

“While the law stipulates that a voter may present proof of residence and the national registration card, in practice proof of residence has been demanded without flexibility especially for urban dwellers which increased the burden of registration as a voter. These demands have prevented legitimate voter registration, which ultimately leave a number of people unregistered,” the report said.

“Proof of residence is also discriminatory for people who are homeless but would like to vote as they cannot register to vote due to lack of proof of residence. A similar situation is faced by transient and internally displaced individuals who lack a stable permanent home address and therefore are unable to vote,” says the report.

The deletion process, according to Zesn’s analysis is not transparent such that even if the law provided modalities for the deletions they could be abused and some voters could be maliciously deleted from the voters’ roll.