Despite assurances by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) that proof of residence would not be a pre-requisite for registration, it remains the major stumbling block to the registration of new voters.
As Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai witnessed on Monday, the programme is fraught with serious bottlenecks that are hindering the smooth and efficient registration of would-be voters.
Tsvangirai’s twins, Vincent and Millcent, were nearly turned away in his presence for failing to produce proof of residence.
Only last week, Zec said it had waived voter registration requirements for those without documentary proof of residence as the programme intensifies ahead of its conclusion on May 19. Sadly, it seems as though the mobile voter registration will come to an end with many people having failed to register.
Some of the documents required as proof of residence include title deeds, rent cards, lease agreements, utility bills, credit store statements or hospital bills. But thousands of Zimbabweans do not have such documents.
“Where are the affidavit forms?” Tsvangirai asked. “I also wonder if some of our old people will be able to go through this process.”
As if that was not enough, the registration team insisted that he sends someone to the voter registration centre with additional proof of residence.
If this could happen to the Prime Minister of Zimbabwe, what more of ordinary citizens in Chikomba, Plumtree and Sanyati, far from the eyes of the media?
Tsvangirai deplored the stringent requirements. And so he should.
Numerous visits to mobile voter registration sites by this paper has witnessed scores of people being turned away for failing to provide the required documents.
It would appear as if there is a deliberate effort to disenfranchise would-be voters, especially the younger generation that is strongly believed to be impervious to President Robert Mugabe’s blandishments.
Voter registration should be one of the easiest things, but with the political atmosphere prevailing in the country ahead of the crunch elections, we need to be alert to deliberate efforts to ensure that many first-timer voters will be viewed with suspicion by the Zanu PF element in government.
Every Zimbabwean has a right to be registered as a voter and all stakeholders should, therefore, help to make this process as simple and effortless as possible. Failure to do this will no doubt raise suspicion that there is a plot to frustrate the young, mainly first-time voters who are likely to be the deciding age group as far as the outcome of this election would be concerned.
We want Zec to ensure that the process of registering first time voters is made as simple as possible in order to afford all citizens their democratic right to vote.
An identity card should suffice as in 1980.