Cristina Lunga, a woman of Mozambican origin previously labelled an “alien”, waits patiently in a slow-moving queue at Kondo Primary School mobile voter registration centre in Chipinge.
REPORT BY VENERANDA LANGA
Picture compilation by Tinotenda Samukange
It is taking about 30 minutes to serve one person, and for the so-called aliens, the wait is even longer as there are a lot of questions being asked to prove that the applicant is not a refugee.
Observations by legislators from the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Home Affairs and their sponsors the Southern African Parliamentary Support Trust, as well as journalists during countrywide visits to voter registration centres were that staff from the Registrar-General’s Office preferred to talk about refugees and not aliens, while no figures were disclosed of aliens who had their citizenship regularised.
This was despite that the figures of other new voter registrants were easily made available.
“I have been queuing since yesterday hoping that by the end of the mobile voter registration exercise tomorrow my status would have changed to a Zimbabwean citizen,” Lunga said.
“I was born 37 years ago of Mozambican parents and all along I have been considered an alien and could not take part in voting during elections.”
Long queues were observed at the voter registration centres and in some cases, aspiring candidates took advantage of the crowd to buy food for the “hungry people” or to give money handouts as little as one dollar.
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission officers could be seen at registration centres and they told the committee that they were conducting their voter education activities.
Chairperson of the committee and Glen View South MP Paul Madzore said although there was an improvement in figures of people registered as new voters, there was still grave concern that a large number of new voters would be disenfranchised.
“The truth is we are going to see a very big number of people unable to register — not because they do not qualify, but due to the two to four days allocated for voter registration and the clustering system. There was an oversight on the issue of aliens in that there were supposed to be adverts detailing which documents they should bring and when registration would take place. We see aliens trickling in in small numbers and as if it was not enough, there is so much emphasis on refugees while people called aliens who have stayed, invested and worked in Zimbabwe for many years are finding it difficult to regularise their citizenship,” Madzore said.
Musikavanhu MP Prosper Mutseyami felt the clustering system that was being used to register voters was itself tantamount to rigging.
“Clustering of urban wards is a rigging system on its own. People will have to travel long distances to get registered paying as much as $15 transport costs, and it means a lot of people in urban and rural wards will not be registered by the end of the voter registration exercise,” Mutseyami said.
Chipinge West MP Sibonile Nyamudeza bemoaned the lengthy period taken to get people’s fingerprints sent to Harare for checking.
“It takes three months to get fingerprints from Chipinge processed in Harare. In other towns it takes a week and these delays will be costly for many aspiring voters,” Nyamudeza said.
A low voter registration turnout was observed in Bulawayo, with Silobela legislator Anadi Sululu blaming it on poor publicity.
Figures given out by Bulawayo Provincial Registrar Jane Peters were that by Wednesday last week about 6 000 people were recorded as new voter registrants, with more than 5 000 having inspected the roll.
“The publicity about voter registration has been very poor and many people in Bulawayo are saying they did not know where to go to register. Although the different provinces we have visited are saying they will register everyone, I do not think the staff at the
Registrar-General’s office will be able to do so, especially with the challenges of generators and cameras at some rural wards,” Sululu said.
While Zanu PF legislators, Fungai Chaderopa (Sanyati) and Mazowe North MP Cairo Mhandu felt everything was on board
and people were registering in large numbers, Mbare MP Piniel Denga said he had observed some of the staff from the RG’s office was not properly trained for the exercise.
“They have challenges in that they cannot even identify whether a person is an alien or refugee. There also seems to be a go-slow on the part of the staff doing registrations because they are taking long to serve only one person,” Denga said.
Figures released by different provinces by last week were that 19 883 new voter registrations were recorded in Manicaland Province, 18 060 in Mashonaland Central Province, more than 18 000 new voter registrants in Masvingo Province, but Matabeleland South Provincial Registrar Jabulani Mbambo refused to give any statistics, saying Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede had given an instruction that the figures should not be releasedto MPs.