VOTER registration is the general process used by governments to ensure that those who vote in an election are legally eligible and that they cast their ballot in the correct location and only do so once.
Candid Comment with Dingilizwe Ntuli
To register as a voter in Zimbabwe, one has to be a citizen, be 18 years and above by the next election and a resident of the constituency you intend to vote in.
Although voter registration is meant to be an effortless process, events on the ground show otherwise.
Registering to vote in Zimbabwe is extremely cumbersome due to bureaucratic hurdles seemingly aimed at disenfranchising voters in suspected MDC strongholds.
The voters’ roll remains in a shambles and efforts to clean it up were previously thwarted by the Registrar-General (RG)’s Office and this has largely contributed to the present chaotic mobile voter registration exercise which has seen thousands being turned away under unclear circumstances.
In addition to the shambolic voters’ roll and slow registration process, the prevailing political squabbles on the proclamation of an election dates has further stalled and possibly derailed a plan by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to boost the voters’ roll by registering new eligible voters during the ongoing compulsory 30-day voter registration exercise.
The exercise, which kicked off on June 10, has now been reduced to a two-day exercise per ward after President Robert Mugabe bypassed parliament to unilaterally proclaim an elections date using presidential powers of decree to illegally and unconstitutionally amend electoral laws.
Mugabe declared July 31 as the poll date saying he was abiding by the Constitutional Court ruling that said polls must now be held as they were supposed to before the expiry of parliament on June 29.
If Mugabe’s proclamation been allowed to stand, voter registration will continue after June 28, the date set for the Nomination Court to sit. This would mean people who register after June 28 will not participate in nominating candidates to contest in the general elections nor would they have been eligible for nomination as candidates themselves.
A slew of voting restrictions championed by Zanu PF have also thrown in roadblocks to voter registration.
Burdensome paperwork requirements that impose additional hurdles to voter registration have effectively blocked people from registering.
Prospective voters are asked to provide identity documents or other documentation verifying their citizenship.
They also must produce proof of residence in the form of utility bills or affidavits from landlords and headmen, in the event that one is a lodger or resides in the rural areas respectively.
Zanu PF has aggressively backed such efforts in the past few elections as being necessary to thwart voter fraud although the MDC formations and civil society say they are attempts to keep migrant citizens from voting and manipulate the outcome.