RIGHTS watchdog, Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) has warned the country of possible chaos if the soon-to-be-rolled-out voter registration exercise is not handled in a free and transparent manner.
by Everson Mushava
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is soon to roll out a new biometric voter (BVR) registration process after it awarded a $4 million tender to supply BVR kits to a Chinese company early this month.
The process would require a fresh voter registration exercise for the 2018 watershed polls.
But addressing human rights defenders at a peace and conflict resolution workshop in Bulawayo yesterday, ZimRights director, Okay Machisa said if the pre-voter registration process was not handled properly, it could culminate into chaos that could result in people being displaced.
He said the chaos would be precipitated by politicians, who will want to take advantage of the lack of awareness on the new voter registration exercise for political expedience, thereby, infringing citizens’ constitutional rights.
“There are people, who think they have the law in their hands and will create chaotic situations,” Machisa said.
“People will be threatened by political opponents, so that they do not register to vote. They will be victimised and even be displaced from their homes so that they do not register to vote. There are some people who think they are above the law.
“A lot of things will happen to disenfranchise people from registering to vote. Communities should build a wall so that what happened in 2008 will not be repeated again.”
His warning comes as Zanu PF members have already been implicated in a campaign to intimidate rural voters that the BVR system will record who they would have voted for.
Zimbabwe witnessed high levels of electoral violence in 2008 when President Robert Mugabe wanted to overturn the first round poll defeat to MDC-T leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Already, human rights organisations have reported an upsurge in politically-motivated violence, as the country edges towards the 2018 general elections.
Machisa said ZimRights chose Bulawayo for the workshop, which was attended by rights defenders from Masvingo, Midlands and the Matabeleland regions, because the area needed more healing after the Gukurahundi massacres of the 1980s.
A report by the Catholic Commission for Justice and Peace in Zimbabwe claimed more than 20 000 people were killed, while thousands were displaced during the disturbances caused by the North Korean-trained Fifth Brigade.
“A lot of people think that Gukurahundi is a closed chapter. How can it be a closed chapter when healing was not done? The wounds are still fresh because there has not been any healing.
“The choice of this venue is an appreciation that it will not be spared by the electoral chaos and we need to train people to carry messages of peace to communities,” he said.
The workshop was attended by more than 30 human rights defenders.