THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says it plans to roll out a fresh voter registration exercise starting in May this year in a move that is set to permanently remove Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede’s Office from administering the country’s election processes.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
Mudede, Registrar-General since 1981, has been accused by opposition parties of being complicit in alleged rigging of elections by President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party in previous elections.
But Zec chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, indicated yesterday that Mudede’s honeymoon is over.
“Yes, we are doing away completely with the old voters’ roll. Our aim is to begin fresh registration by at least May this year. We are starting afresh,” she said.
Zec has already short-listed three bidders earmarked to provide the registration kits, who, Makarau said, must be in place by April.
Makarau told a State-controlled weekly at the weekend that the biometric voter registration system would help Zec deal with the contentious issue of “dead people” on the voters’ roll, as well as multiple registrations that opposition parties have argued has been manipulated by Mugabe to rig elections.
“In 2018, we will use technology to record voters’ details. The technology carries an added advantage in that it de-duplicates multiple registrants,” she said.
“If you try to register using different names or addresses, your biometric data – your digital photograph and fingerprints – will tell us that you are the same person.
“Zec also went for this system, as only those who present will appear on the voters’ roll. Therefore, issues regarding ‘dead voters’ will not cloud the integrity of our voters’ roll because only those who are able to present themselves physically will be registered.”
Mudede’s roll of voters is reportedly stuffed with dead people, children as young as five, as well as a large number of centenarians.
MDC-T secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, said the adoption of biometric voter registration would make elections “attractive”.
“One of the attractions of biometric voter registration is that we are going to have a new voters’ roll. We will also, at long last, dispense with Mudede and the contentious issue of voter registration slips,” he said.
The issue of voter registration slips was a sticking point in the 2013 elections, with the MDC-T saying these were used for electoral fraud.
Mudede’s roll was reportedly manipulated by Zanu PF through a shadowy Israeli company, Nikuv.
But People’s Democratic Party spokesperson, Jacob Mafume, scoffed at suggestions that Zec was ready to reform its systems.
“It is foolish and clownish for people to believe that Zec can suddenly provide us with a computerised voting system, which is clean when they have failed to deliver a manual voters’ register four years after an election,” he said.
“It is like expecting a miracle and we are not hoodwinked. We are less than two years to an election and we do not see how they can be able to deliver on such a promise.”
Former Vice-President Joice Mujuru’s Zimbabwe People First welcomed the idea of moving to a cumputerised system of registering potential voters.
“Zec are the custodians of the voters’ roll, as required by the Constitution and this is a welcome development. We just hope the process will allow every citizen to be registered,” party spokesman, Jealousy Mawarire, said.
“While we cannot completely do away with electoral fraud, this is a positive move in the right direction. At least, we are guaranteed that all people, who would have died prior to the process, will not be part of next year’s elections.”
Makarau said Zec was yet to have a clear idea of the exact dates of next year’s elections.
“We don’t have a date for the 2018 general election, as it will be proclaimed by His Excellency, the President,” she said.
Mwonzora said the election date should be between September 12 and October 12 next year.
“Mugabe was sworn in on September 12, 2013, so according to the law, the election date should be between that date and a month later,” he said.