THE 30-day mandatory mobile voter registration exercise started amid chaos as despondent aspiring voters accused the Registrar-General’s Office of employing delaying tactics to frustrate the electorate while many were turned away for various reasons.
Report by Hazel Ndebele
A survey by the Zimbabwe Independent this week showed that the exercise which started on Monday was engulfed by chaos despite desperate efforts by cabinet to implement a raft of changes to smoothen the process.
But potential voters complained the bottlenecks that chocked the initial voter registration conducted between April 29 and May 19 remained with the situation worsened by what would-be voters described as a “go-slow” by the RG’s officers.
“We have been here since 5am and only less than 20 people have been served,” said Janet Ncube when the Zimbabwe Independent visited Mai Musodzi Hall in Mbare on Wednesday afternoon. “This is our second day here and it seems we are not going to be served again.”
Angry aspiring voters at Huruyadzo Shopping Centre in Chitungwiza could not contain their disappointment as they claimed the “go slow” was a deliberate attempt by Zanu PF to deter urbanites from registering as the party has often fared badly in urban areas.
“Tasvika pamapenalties chaipo apa saka hazviite kuti tidzokere tisina kuregister (we are at a crucial point in as far as elections are concerned and we cannot go back without registering),” said Tapiwa Mamvura.
The current voter registration exercise has not been widely publicised and hundreds of people are still being turned away.
“We are travelling long distances just to come and register here. They should have increased the number of registration centres to ease this congestion,” said Nicholas Banda at Sunningdale Community Hall.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, has accepted that the first mobile voter registration was not a success and promised to correct the problems.
Meanwhile, Makarau on Wednesday said her organisation was constrained by the limited mandate accorded to it by law and financial dependence on Treasury.
Makarau made the remarks in parliament where she was briefing legislators on the body’s preparedness to hold general elections under the new constitution in the face of the Constitutional Court ruling that polls must be held by July 31.
Makarau said the electoral body could not do much in regulating skewed reporting and hate speech in the media, especially the broadcasting sector, before the election dates are proclaimed.
“Zec’s function to monitor the content of broadcasters will only kick in after the proclamation of the elections date,” Makarau said.
“That is the time when broadcasters have an obligation to bring their programmes for vetting to us; thus before proclamation we don’t have any teeth.”
Makarau was responding to Senator Tendayi Makunde who had asked if the electoral body had put in place a code of conduct for political parties and the media ahead of the general elections. She said Zec had received limited funding from Treasury but remained ready to deliver credible elections.
“Zec is ready in terms of logistics and human resources,” Makarau said, “However it is an open secret that we are under- resourced. Out of a budget of US$150 million we only received US$25 million and we are simply awaiting the release of the money.”