Thousands of potential voters will not be able to cast ballots in the crucial national election on July 31 because they have been denied a chance to register as voters.
The registration exercise ended yesterday with many thousands of people still struggling, but without success, to get registered because — as witnessed by NewsDay teams in a survey of registration centres around the country — the process was moving at a snail’s pace while long queues of prospective voters remained stagnant.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), which is responsible for the registration of voters, said the registration period would not be extended.
Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau, however, said those that were in the queue on the last day of registration yesterday would all be served.
Ordinarily, the registration exercise ended at 19:00hrs daily, but Zec said they would bust the deadline to accommodate
everybody that would still be in the queues after that time.
“All persons who will be in the queues at the time of closing shall be served because this is the close of this important window for Zimbabweans to register to vote,” she said.
She, however, ruled out extension of the deadline.
“Tonight the final voters’ roll for this election closes and this means any person not captured by tomorrow (today) will not be able to participate,” she said at a Press conference in the capital yesterday.
The registration process is ongoing, but the deadline for people to register in order to be able to vote in this election was last night at 19:00hrs.
When NewsDay visited various registration centres across Harare on the closing day yesterday, thousands of aspiring voters could be seen milling at the registration centres, desperate to be included on the voters’ roll. Urban centres are known strongholds of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC-T party.
At the Registrar General’s offices in Highfield, only 66 people out of several hundreds had been registered from opening of the centre at 7:00am up to 2pm when our news crew arrived. This implied that only 10 people were being registered per hour.
Hordes of frustrated people were seen sun-bathing and complaining loudly.
“I came here at 7am, but up until now I have not even been issued with a (queue) number. I do not see myself registering, much as it was my wish to cast my vote,” said Munyaradzi Maseko, a resident from Highfield’s Lusaka section.
At the Registrar General’s Office at Market Square, officials had by midday issued queue holding cards to over 500 aspiring voters waiting to be served at around midday. Outside the centre, an estimated 1 000 others were still waiting to get their chance.
“This is my third day coming here to register, but to no avail. They (Zec) should simply tell us that we should not waste our time. Don’t we have rights as citizens to vote for leaders of our choice?” asked an angry aspiring voter, Stanley Chipendo, who had travelled from Dzivarasekwa to the city to register.
The situation was much the same at Budiriro Community Hall where only 76 potential voters had been issued with queue tickets by 13:00hrs and only a handful of these had been served. Several hundred were still waiting outside the centre.
There was pushing and shoving when one Zec official came over with some few more tickets and people stampeded to try and grab them.
Contacted for comment, MDC–T national spokesperson Douglas Mwonzora accused the Registrar General’s Office and the Central Intelligence Organisation of being behind the chaos, saying it was part of a grand strategy to disenfranchise perceived MDC-T supporters and ensure a Zanu PF victory.
“The real problem lies with the RG and CIOs. (Justice) Rita Makarau does not have powers to tell the RG what to do. She is being undermined by the two institutions and is not to blame for the chaos we are witnessing,” Mwonzora said.
Asked what his party would do about it, Mwonzora said: “We do have our clear strategic option, but I will not divulge it now. We will cross the bridge when we get there.”
MDC deputy national spokesperson Kurauone Chihwayi said his party did not have a solution to the disenfranchisement of the urban populace.
“It’s unfortunate we are dealing with an unfaithful partner. It’s unfortunate those running Zec and CIOs won’t cooperate. Most of our members have failed to register,” he said.