VOTER registration again dominated cabinet discussions this week as it became more apparent that bureaucratic bungling and systematic disenfranchisement of potential voters by the Registrar-General’s office is continuing unabated, resulting in ministers resolving that teachers countrywide be involved in the exercise.
Owen Gagare/Faith Zaba
Government sources told the Zimbabwe Independent after noting that Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede and registry officials countrywide had failed to implement various cabinet directives, aimed at removing bottlenecks militating against the smooth running of the registration exercise, cabinet this week resolved that voter registration becomes a standing cabinet agenda item.
A source said Justice minister Patrick Chinamasa, whose ministry oversees the operations of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), and co-Home Affairs minister Theresa Makone, who supervises the RG’s office, were tasked with coming up with modalities to ensure the upcoming 30-day voter registration exercise, which will be done after the president has assented to the new draft constitution and gazetted the constitutional Bill, is done smoothly.
Makone confirmed the latest developments, saying the measures government wants to introduce would ensure the programme flows smoothly.
“We agreed that all teachers must be registry officials and that all schools must be registering centres. I will discuss with Minister Chinamasa to come up with the necessary modalities for the exercise to be done smoothly,” she said.
“Cabinet resolved voter registration becomes a standing agenda item and every week there will be feedback on how the exercise is going.”
Makone presented a report to cabinet three weeks ago after a massive outcry from ordinary Zimbabweans who were failing to register, culminating in the RG’s office being directed to replace lost identity documents for all Zimbabweans free of charge until the last day of voter registration.
Aliens — people living in Zimbabwe — were cleared to get identity cards with immediate effect so that they can register as voters.
Despite the cabinet directive, ordinary people are still finding it difficult to register and acquire documents with registry officials being strict on issues such as proof of residence, among other things.
This led to Chinamasa presenting proposals to cabinet which resulted in the Zec announcing people could swear in an affidavit on their residential addresses before registering.
Registry officials were however not availing affidavits to people, hence the latest cabinet intervention.
The voter registration exercise issue was also discussed during the principals meeting on Monday, where Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai reportedly highlighted the problems ordinary Zimbabweans where facing while trying to register as voters.
MDC-T this week wrote Zec and copied the letter to Sadc facilitator in Zimbabwe, South African President Jacob Zuma, outlining the anomalies his party had come across.
“Our expectation is that as the ultimate responsible authority on the voters’ roll, Zec would take a greater and more active role in the voter registration exercise to ensure that its integrity is not compromised,” read the letter. “Ultimately, it is Zec’s and its commissioners’ reputations and integrity that are at stake. More significantly, it is the future of the country and the millions of Zimbabweans that is on the line.”
A local non-governmental organisation, Election Resource Centre, which has been observing the voter registration processes, this week said a large number of people are still disenfranchised despite the on-going voter registration exercise.
“In places which the mobile registration teams have visited a number of potential voters remain disenfranchised due to a myriad of challenges ranging from lack of publicity, inadequate time allocation, the cost of registration, limited civil registration services and difficulties in acquiring necessary documents like proof of residence,” it said. “The foregoing challenges have the inevitable effect of excluding a significant number of eligible voters from the imminent general elections.”