TECHNICAL hitches continued to dog the voter registration exercise in some parts of the Matabeleland region yesterday, with some potential voters claiming it took them longer than necessary to have their fingerprints registered in the biometric voter registration (BVR) scanners acquired by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec).
By NQOBANI NDLOVU
The most affected were Bulawayo central and Umguza in Matabeleland North province.
In some instances, the machines reportedly failed to indicate some polling centre names, forcing Zec staffers to manually write the polling centre names on registration slips, further delaying the process.
In Bulawayo, former Education minister David Coltart said he had to endure a two-hour delay as the BVR scanner initially failed to recognise his fingerprints to enable him to register as a potential voter in next year’s general elections.
Coltart was among several MDC Alliance leaders who visited the Zec’s voter registration centre in Famona, Bulawayo.
The MDC Alliance team comprised MDC leader, Welshman Ncube, MDC-T’s Bulawayo South legislator, Thabitha Khumalo and Coltart, among others.
Coltart had to endure a nightmare following the technical glitch that resulted in the Zec officers travelling to the city centre to enlist the help of technicians.
“Firstly, it took one hour 45 minutes to get registered, so if you do the mathematics, it will get the vast amount of time to get people registered.
“Of course, I am urban-based, it’s easy for me to come here. Imagine someone in the rural areas,” he said.
“The main challenge was the scanner failing to record my fingerprints. After hours of trying, they brought technicians and they were only able to record five of my 10 fingerprints. Eventually they compromised and recorded those five and said they could not record the others. They said it’s not a problem because when you vote, you use the thumbs and fortunately, it did record the thumbs.
“But this exposed the technical defects of the system. What about a rural person, who doesn’t have a profile like mine, will they be treated with so much courtesy?
“I have to say the staff here was excellent. They did everything to assist me, but in a rush process, are they going to be giving people the same amount of time as they did to me?”
Khumalo expressed concern at the BVR technical glitches, particularly the failure of the scanners to recognise fingerprints.
“There is a huge challenge in terms of fingerprints, where you are being advised that if your fingerprints are not oily, they cannot be read by the scanner.
“What we don’t understand is that if there is need for oil, why then is that oil not supplied?
“Because you are then asked to rub your nose, your hair or wherever there is oil and I think they have to relook at the scanners,” she said.
Ncube weighed in saying: “It took about 10 minutes to get done. It appears they are following the proper procedures, which are set out in the statutory instrument.
“We hope that this will continue, but the principal problem will continue to be registration of young people, who have no independent proof of residence for themselves and often who have to be assisted by parents.
“Our hope is that everyone will be able to be patient to go through the process.”
Zapu deputy spokesperson Iphithule Maphosa said the glitches experienced at Zec registration centres were a clear indication that the election agency was not prepared for elections, which are due next year.
“I think political parties have been vindicated in our calls to Zec not to rush the voter registration process without adequate preparations,” he said.
“Some of the information is now manually captured and yet this is supposed to be a computerised process.
“Considering the history of our previous electoral processes, which are riddled with allegations of vote rigging, this is likely to raise a lot of eyebrows.”
Zec chairperson Rita Makarau could not be reached for comment.
The exercise was rolled out on Monday at 63 selected centres throughout the country and is expected to end in mid-January 2018.