After at least 15 years of voting in elections with a highly flawed voters’ roll stuffed with dead people and countless missing names, Zimbabwe’s latest voter registration exercise shuddered to an end.
Column by Cathy Buckle
The month-long voter registration process had turned out to be an absolutely chaotic exercise which started with sensational news at the beginning of the process and finished with shocking news before the ink was dry at the end.
Just after the registration process began, the MDC-T’s Douglas Mwonzora told the Press that in some constituencies the voters’ roll had swollen by 10 000 names in 48 hours, saying it was impossible that 153 voters were being registered every second.
Mwonzora described how Home Affairs co-minister Theresa Makone had checked the voters’ roll for her constituency on Monday and found 5 196 people registered, but two days later when she checked again, the number had more than tripled and there were 17 068 names on the roll.
A short while later, the Registrar-General, who has been in that position for 33 years and has surely got lots and lots of practice at this by now, announced that the names of one million dead people had been removed from the voters’ roll. Mudede said that as of the May 1, 2013, there were 5 677 881 registered voters on the roll.
Instead of calming people’s fears about the accuracy of the voters’ roll, the Registrar’s statement about a million dead voters having been removed set the national eyebrows soaring towards the heavens.
How many of those dead blokes voted in the constitutional referendum a couple of months ago, we wondered? And is that why we all saw no queues at referendum polling stations while authorities described it as the biggest turnout in 30 years? Who’s in charge of this asylum?
As the voter registration exercise continued, there were widespread reports of massive queues, of people being turned away, of rural village chiefs and headmen denying people proof of residence and of voters finding their names either not on the roll or mis-spelt and not matching the spelling of their names as shown on their IDs, thereby making them invalid come voting day.
Ten days before the end of the voter registration process, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said that since the start of the exercise, 29 940 new voters had been registered on the national voters’ roll. It wasn’t clear if that included the super-fast 10 000 people who had been registered at the rate of 153 people per second in one constituency in the first two days of the exercise.
As the national voice of outrage reached fever pitch, and just a few days before the end of voter registration, Zec officials went on a walk-about. Zec chairperson Justice Makarau spoke to church leaders and said: “We accept that there are gaps between what we are saying and what is happening on the ground.” And then, one day after the closure of the voter registration exercise, Deputy Prime Minister Arthur Mutambara told Parliament that when Vice-President Joice Mujuru went to check the voters’ roll last week, she was shocked to discover that only nine people from her home village in Mt Darwin were on the roll.
All this aside, there’s still the massive problem of hundreds of thousands of born and resident Zimbabweans with the dreaded “Alien” status on their IDs and countless others who have been forced to take out citizenship of other countries in order to survive the last 13 years of mayhem in Zimbabwe. All of them have been struck off the voters’ roll and we wonder how many even tried to renew their seized citizenship status. With such obvious mayhem and incompetence, why would they?
As the dust settled over the whole mess and it was obvious that the April/May voter registration had been a complete waste of time, money and resources, we heard the exercise was going to be repeated. Justice Makarau was quoted in The Herald saying: “We were drawing lessons in order to structure the next exercise.”
Justice Makarau said $21 million was needed for the new voter registration exercise which would take place very soon, now that President Robert Mugabe had signed the new Constitution.
No one said anything about just exactly who in Zimbabwe was left with any trust or confidence at all in the whole voter registration process, this one just-ended or the one still to come. After the disgraceful debacle of the past month, the calls to allow people to vote with their ID cards only continue to grow ever louder.