THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has rolled out, though on a limited scale, the biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise in the country’s 63 districts as preparations for the 2018 elections gather momentum. The voter registration exercise has, however, faced a lot of technical glitches, as well as criticism from the opposition and civil society groups, who accused Zec of conniving with the ruling Zanu PF party to disenfranchise millions of potential opposition supporters to advantage the ruling party.
NewsDay (ND) reporter Blessed Mhlanga last week spoke to MDC-T secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora (DM) on a number of issues surrounding the registration exercise and the opposition parties’ proposed coalition pact to challenge President Robert Mugabe in next year’s presidential race.
Below are the excerpts of the interview:
ND: Zec has launched BVR amid so much controversy, your party has also challenged this process by approaching the courts. Can you brief us on how you view the whole process?
DM: The launch of biometric voter registration (BVR) is like stealing from Zimbabweans, (President Robert) Mugabe proclaimed that voter registration will start on September 14, but what we have seen and known is that in this country there is no voter registration that is taking place for various reasons, so for him to say it started on (September 14), these are lies of the highest order. Registration has only happened for Mugabe and a few other dignitaries and not all Zimbabweans have had access. They don’t even know where to register.
ND: What have you done to ensure that these challenges or lies are addressed?
DM: Zec has not received the voter registration kits for use to register people to vote, we only have 400 in the country out of 3 200. The other kits will only be delivered to Zec around October 15, effectively that’s when it will start, Mugabe says it has started. Voter registration centres, which are the same points people are going to vote from, have not be advertised or made public, as we speak people around the country don’t know where they will go and register, so what should have happened is that these areas should first be announced, the failure to do so makes this a guerrilla warfare. People have not been issued with national identity documents in Matabeleland South and Midlands there is a challenge in accessing ID cards and Matabeleland North, were children lost parents because of Gukurahundi. In Mashonaland, there is also a challenge of people, who don’t have IDs chiefly because most of them were labelled aliens before the 2013 Constitution, so these people don’t have ID’s and before they are given ID’s we can’t have voter registration. We will continue to fight until we win. We scored a victory when we forced government to issue free ID’s until (Home Affairs minister Ignatius) Chombo acceded to our demands.
ND: Having scored that victory on ID’s. What next?
DM: We are now calling upon all the people to go and get ID’s with that 90-day moratum on fees and then to ensure that once voter registration centres are announced, they should go in their numbers to register because this is the last time we want to be talking about a Zanu PF regime in Zimbabwe.
ND: Zec chairperson, Rita Makarau, has just said you misread the proclamation, she said it does not close voter registration, but merely gives guidance and powers to start voter registration.
DM: Makarau is saying what was proclaimed by the President is not what will happen.
ND: There is a grey area on the movement and storage of data, Zec has been evasive on the central system. Have you managed to get the answer around these issues?
DM: This is a major issue, we are discussing on the servers, which will store this data. As far as we know, those servers are yet to be bought, we now don’t know which servers they want to use. Are they going to store the information with the Central Intelligence Organisation, the police, Nikuv we are unaware of how they are going to manage that data? This is just a Ponzi scheme and we call on all Zimbabweans to open their eyes so that they see that they are being “Nikuved”.
ND: Some have criticised the MDC–T as a cry baby spending time around courts and demonstrations, while Zanu PF is on the ground campaigning and gaining ground. Do you agree with this?
DM: Of all the people in the MDC, I am the only one who is attending court, the rest, our vice president (Nelson) Chamisa, our president, Morgan Tsvangirai is not at court, they are working on the ground working with the people in various programmes. So there is a section in the MDC, which is led by the secretary general, which handles issues of litigation. Going to the courts is a struggle on its own. Take notice that we also scored another victory after helping more than 400 aliens get IDs, so that they are ready to register to vote. Our women’s assembly is on the ground pushing our programmes.
ND: How confident are you that the MDC Alliance is going to work given the challenges you are facing at the moment internally?
DM: I am not so sure the specific challenges you are referring to. The MDC Alliance is already there, a document was signed at the Zimbabwe Grounds establishing an alliance. Everybody is excited that the alliance should work, of course we have had a few problems some of the problems, within the individual political parties to the alliance, I am happy to say that those problems are being ironed out and some of them have been ironed out. The crisis of expectations is to be expected when you have a good thing like and alliance it is not easy to achieve and all countries that have had alliances have gone through these problems.
ND: There is belief that you are more worried about positions rather than the interests of the people and fights are mainly around positions?
DM: Well, you will always have individuals who think of positions, it will be abnormal to expect people in political parties not to think of positions, people are going to think about their positions as secretary general, others want it others want to retain it. People will think about being president, being chairman of this secretary of that it is something to be expected, but what is important is for every individual to realise what is in the common good. The common good is for us to win the next elections. It does not mean that the concerns being raised by certain people are not important that’s why we have to address them and we are taking leadership to address them and I am particularly happy that president Tsvangirai is taking an active role to make sure that everybody in the party and everybody outside the party is satisfied by the alliance arraignment.
ND: We have had a narrative that the MDC-T is broke and ill-funded to get into this poll
DM: The laws of Zimbabwe say that we can only get money from the government if we are in opposition or from our members by way of subscriptions, Zimbabweans are poor and the government is exercising the power of the purse over us they don’t give us our money, they give us only when we put a lot of pressure and, therefore, yes we do not have enough money and we just appeal to the international community we appeal to well-meaning Zimbabweans to fund the struggle because the cost of MDC losing this election is a continuation of this poverty and misery on the part of our people so we must invest in this struggle all of us.
ND: Zanu PF and its presidential candidate use State resources during their campaigns. Are you in any shape to match them?
DM: This is the unfairness of it all, we know that Zanu PF is broke, I know it because I sit in a forum with the secretary general of Zanu PF (secretary of administration) they are broke, probably more broke than the MDC as a party, but they are not shy to abuse State resources and Mugabe is abusing State resources, his ministers are abusing State resources they get transport and allowances from State resources in order to attend these interface rallies. It is unfair, unjust and unconscionable.
ND: There is a lot that is not in your favour, but your are still going into this election. What are your chances really?
DM: It is not impossible to win an unfair game, we have seen in football were a team has been treated so unfairly has gone on to lift the cup. We must learn to improvise as the MDC. We must learn to get encouragement and motivation by the enormity of the problem that we are facing and as secretary general, who is in part responsible for mobilising these resources and designing the campaign it is a challenge other people have won in worse positions why can’t we.
BM: Your proposed marriage with Joice Mujuru’s opposition National People’s Party appears to be dead in the water. What’s your comment?
DM: The MoU with the NPP stands, it’s there it has not been nullified. I am aware that the negotiators from both ourselves and themselves are sitting and discussing. We have a few outstanding issues I think they have been narrowed down to two. The biggest outstanding issue was resolved by the principals themselves and we have smaller outstanding issues and we are working on that. We respect the NPP and I am sure they respect the MDC as well, above all we respect the people of Zimbabwe and we call upon everybody to do the same.
ND: NPP has said it will not join the MDC Alliance they will only come to the table when there is a neutral name. Are you willing to give in to that?
DM: For us, the major issue has been resolved, the issue of the name is something that I am sure the negotiators are dealing with, it’s a question of give and take, it’s a question of looking at realities. Issues of identity within the name to be seen to be identified within the name, we also have issues of the branding that has happened over the years so a balance to be achieved and what I said to the negotiators is they have to think hard.