Voter registration towards 2018 : Are there political games at play?

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Obert Gutu

Section 239 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe mandates the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) with, inter alia, the duty to prepare for, conduct and supervise elections to the Office of President and to Parliament and also elections to provincial and metropolitan councils and the governing bodies of local authorities.

By OBERT GUTU

In addition, Zec is also mandated to ensure that these elections and referendums are conducted efficiently, freely, fairly, transparently and in accordance with the law.

In less than 12 months from today, Zimbabwe will be holding the 2018 harmonised elections. The million dollar question is: Is Zec prepared and capable of conducting a free and fair election that will pass the test of credibility, an election that will be largely free from contestation?

The situation that is presently obtaining on the ground points to a situation whereby Zec is thoroughly ill — prepared, under — capacitated and thus, incapable of satisfactorily discharging its constitutional mandate.

The ongoing biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise has, so far, been nothing short of shambolic. Although Zec has announced to the nation that it now has got 3 000 BVR kits that are sufficient enough to register 7 million voters in three months’ time, the actual situation on the ground proves otherwise.

To date, Zec has only managed to register about 40 000 people countrywide and the reports that are trickling in from all over the country, speak to a situation in which the BVR process is painstackingly slow and cumbersome. There are instances where prospective voters have each taken no less than two hours just to have the paperwork and the computer formalities finalised to have one voter registered.

Most of the officials who are operating the BVR machines, especially at Town House in Harare and at the Remembrance Drive district offices in Mbare as well as in Mount Pleasant, appear to be actually computer illiterate because they seem to be struggling to operate the BVR kits.

An independent observer might, therefore, rightly conclude that its either these Zec officials are under specific instructions to be slow and inefficient or, at the very least, Zec did not give these officials adequate and comprehensive training to operate the BVR kits. As it is, there is no sense of excitement that has been generated by the on-going BVR exercise.

Whether by commission or omission, Zec has somehow failed to undertake a thorough and concerted advertising and awareness program to explain to Zimbabweans that every eligible person has to register to vote on the new BVR system because the old voters’ roll will no longer be in use for the 2018 elections.

It is only non-governmental organisations such as the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and others who have taken it upon themselves to launch an aggressive awareness campaign, particularly in the electronic media. Zec itself is conspicuous by its apparent silence and lack of enthusiasm to excite the Zimbabwean population to go out and register as voters. Knowing the Zanu PF regime’s well – documented penchant for rigging electoral processes, some of us in the opposition are already smelling a rat to the effect that there are political games at play.

At several BVR centres in cities and towns such as Harare, Bulawayo, Gweru, Kadoma and Mutare, Zec officials turn up very late ( around 13.00 hours),to open the centres for the public to come and register. In addition, some essential paperwork such as the form VR9 are almost invariably in short supply thus making it extremely difficult for people to register as voters. This was the situation at a BVR centre at Seke NO.2 Primary School in Chitungwiza South constituency a few days ago.

There is little doubt that Zec is under some kind of instruction from shadowy forces at Munhumutapa Building, Chaminuka Building and KGVI Barracks to make sure that the BVR exercise is made very user – unfriendly and cumbersome, particularly in urban areas that are perceived to be opposition strongholds.

Zec chairperson, Rita Makarau, with respect, has been most uninspiring in projecting the image of someone who is in control and in charge of running an efficient and transparent BVR exercise. In most, if not all her public announcements on the BVR exercise, she is sounding apologetic and somehow unsure of what, exactly, is taking place around her. Things were not made any better when Makarau recently knelt before President Robert Mugabe at State House when Zec had gone to register the First Family and some other high-ranking government officials.

That mere act of kneeling down before President, who himself is a political player and an aspiring Zanu PF Presidential candidate for the 2018 elections, was a public relations disaster for Makarau. She portrayed herself as someone who is completely subservient to Mugabe. As the Zec chairperson, this was the last thing that Makarau should have done.

Reports coming from rural areas about the BVR exercise are frightening to say the least. In areas such as Gokwe-Kabuyuni, traditional leaders have had their stamps confiscated by local Zanu PF officials to make sure that they don’t prepare and sign any proof of residence documents for known and suspected opposition supporters.

Zec has failed to stamp its constitutional authority because they are coming across as if they are subservient to the government of the day instead of exuding an air of impartiality and independence at all times.

Makarau’s public pronouncements are carefully tailored and structured to make sure that she sounds politically correct to the ruling establishment. She is someone who is clearly not prepared to ruffle feathers amongst the ruling elite by fearlessly and consistently stamping her authority and independence. God knows why Makaru always sounds so timid and afraid! May be she knows something that some of us don’t know.

The issue of the servers that will store the BVR data is another sticky point. As it is, there is a lot of vagueness and ambiguity regarding how, exactly, and also where, these servers were acquired from. When we enquired about the location of these servers, we were advised that they were being kept at the Zec head office at Mahachi Quantum Building in Harare, but then, our ICT experts have not been given access to these servers to enable them to inspect the same and make sure that they are safe and sound such that they can’t be manipulated to rig next year’s elections.

Is Makarau and the organisation that she heads, Zec, really in charge of this whole BVR exercise? Careful scrutiny of the situation on the ground points to a very scary scenario whereby there appears to be a Big Brother somewhere who is intricately controlling and manipulating Zec from behind the scenes.

As the country’s largest and most popular political party, the MDC led by Morgan Tsvangirai will continue to call upon Zimbabweans to turn out in their millions and register to vote regardless of the various hurdles that have been put in place by Zec and its political masters. It is a fact that dictatorships the world over subsist on voter apathy.

The Zanu PF regime is determined to have as few people as possible to register to vote, particularly in the densely populated urban settlements.

Our ICT experts, together with us the politicians, are working round the clock to ensure that the 2018 elections are not stolen as was the case in 2013. As we say in the Shona language : “tamba tamba chidembo muskwe takabata’’. We will never, ever allow Zec and their Zanu PF surrogates to once again steal the people’s vote in 2018.

The people of Zimbabwe cannot wait to exercise their right to vote in a free and fair election. In a free and fair election, Zanu PF will suffer a crushing and humiliating electoral defeat next year. The national economy is on a tailspin thanks to decades of Zanu PF misrule, insipid and rampant corruption as well as sheer incompetence and ineptitude. We are about to cross the Rubicon and indeed, only a massively rigged, unfree and unfair election will give rise to a Zanu PF victory in 2018.

17 COMMENTS

  1. Comment…This is the reason why the opposition will not win the 2018 election. instead of undoing self inflicting election loss scheme (Voter apathy), you are busy self perpetuating your own down fall. This coming election will shock you. Opposition parties in Zimbabwe lack research and critical analysis. The 2018 election is happening now (Voter registration), come voting day the party which had more registered members win hands down. As it stands now ZANU Pf strong holds are busy registering their members in masses, while in town (Opposition strong holds) 14 out of 15 eligible voters will not register because they are ‘well informed’ by their party leadership through articles such this one that the elections are always rigged. All potential voters in urban areas are hard hit by voter apathy. They will not register to vote because they were made to believe that ZANU PF is a rigging master hence undefeatable. I can see ZANU Pf winning this election free and fair because of a superior number of registered voters from their constituencies period

  2. Comment…This is the reason why the opposition will not win the 2018 election. instead of undoing self inflicting election loss scheme (Voter apathy), you are busy self perpetuating your own down fall. This coming election will shock you. Opposition parties in Zimbabwe lack research and critical analysis. The 2018 election is happening now (Voter registration), come voting day the party which had more registered members win hands down. As it stands now ZANU Pf strong holds are busy registering their members in masses, while in town (Opposition strong holds) 14 out of 15 eligible voters will not register because they are ‘well informed’ by their party leadership through articles such this one that the elections are always rigged. All potential voters in urban areas are hard hit by voter apathy. They will not register to vote because they were made to believe that ZANU PF is a rigging master hence undefeatable. I can see ZANU Pf winning this election free and fair because of a superior number of registered voters from their constituencies period

  3. This is the worrying thing about MDC, you acknowledge that Zanu PF has rigged elections in the past, you acknowledge that the regime is doing so once again but what you will not accept is the need to stop contesting these flawed elections and implement the reforms first. What is the point of you asking the people to go and register to vote when you readily agree that ZEC are making it impossible for these people to register.
    “Our ICT experts, together with us the politicians, are working round the clock to ensure that the 2018 elections are not stolen as was the case in 2013. As we say in the Shona language : “tamba tamba chidembo muskwe takabata’’. We will never, ever allow Zec and their Zanu PF surrogates to once again steal the people’s vote in 2018,” you say.
    It is all very well for you to be making all these grand postures, what the nation wants to know are what exactly are you doing to address the problems on the ground?
    “The Zanu PF regime is determined to have as few people as possible to register to vote, particularly in the densely populated urban settlements,” you acknowledge.
    This is nothing new, we have the same problem in the 2013 elections and MDC did nothing. What we want to know is what is MDC doing to make sure this is not going to happen again?
    What is clear here is that MDC will contest next year’s elections regardless how flawed and illegal the process becomes as long as the party has any hope of winning the few gravy train seats Zanu PF throws away, bait to entice the opposition to contest. MDC leaders sold-out during the GNU by failing to implement even one reform and the party is now selling-out on demanding reforms by insisting in contesting these flawed elections.
    MDC’s political posturing whilst dragging the nation into an election process everyone can see will never be a free, fair and credible process is socially, morally and politically unacceptable.

    • Why do you think MDC is the only opposition party what are others doing about it? yes MDC is failing but we have 74 opposition parties some we are told are led by technocrats.

  4. games or no games had a brush with the new registration process recently and i was not amused, it is painstakingly slow and unlike last time were we had voter ids this time around its a useless sticker and so on, i wonder what is going on.

    • You know Zanu PF is doing this deliberately because it is part of the vote rigging. By taking any part you are approving what the regime is doing and therefore cannot complain of the elections being rigged. You were warned Zanu PF is rigging the vote but you still thought you could take the regime and win!

  5. There is nothing the opposition can do to ZEC. They can’t take it to court which will take years, the best they can do is to boycott but vanaMadhuku will participate. ZEC is deliberately putting roadblocks to registration and seriously what can the opposition do? ZanuPf calendestinely registered its people lying they are giving them ATM cards come election day these are the people on voter’s roll. ZEC seems was just mandated to register opposition supporters and do it slowly whilst sending a few zanupf people to registration centers to give some semblance of credibility yet they have already a database ready to be given to ZEC.

    • To argue that MDC must contest flawed elections because someone else will if they do not is a fallacious argument which Madkuku can use to justify why he too is contesting the flawed elections! If you know that Zanu PF has corrupted the whole electoral process to the point it is impossible to have free, fair and credible elections, the 2008 elections have settled this point beyond debate, then you must boycott the elections until the reforms are implemented. What someone else may do or not do is immaterial! The elections will still be flawed and illegal whether one opposition party contest or all 75 of them contest!

  6. I have come to the conclusion that MDC will never ever bring about any democratic changes the nation needs to move on. Never.

    The people of Zimbabwe risked life and limb to elect MDC on the ticket the party will deliver democratic changes. Whatever fighting spirit the party had for change it all died during the GNU when the party leaders suppered with the devil. Of course, MDC leaders sold-out during the GNU and they have been in Mugabe’s pockets ever since.

    “In less than 12 months from today, Zimbabwe will be holding the 2018 harmonised elections. The million dollar question is: Is Zec prepared and capable of conducting a free and fair election that will pass the test of credibility, an election that will be largely free from contestation?” asked Obert Gutu.

    It was a rhetorical question which he promptly answered himself.

    “The situation that is presently obtaining on the ground points to a situation whereby Zec is thoroughly ill — prepared, under — capacitated and thus, incapable of satisfactorily discharging its constitutional mandate,” he answered.

    The real million dollar (rhetorical) question is: Now we know, ZEC will never deliver free and fair elections, what is MDC going to do about it?

    It is a rhetorical question because we all know the answer: nothing, MDC is going to contest next year’s elections regardless how flawed and illegal the process becomes.

    It is clear ZEC is dragging its feet over the voter registration exercise and so hundreds of thousands if not millions of would be voters will not even get a chance to register. Those opposition supporters who do register, the regime has many other tricks up its sleeve to deny them the vote. Many in the rural areas are being herded like cattle to the dip tank, to register and, when the time comes, they will be herded once again to vote for Zanu PF. And through it all MDC is determined to contest the elections regardless!

    “Our ICT experts, together with us the politicians, are working round the clock to ensure that the 2018 elections are not stolen as was the case in 2013. As we say in the Shona language : “tamba tamba chidembo muskwe takabata’’. We will never, ever allow Zec and their Zanu PF surrogates to once again steal the people’s vote in 2018,” continued Gutu.

    This is a nightmare. Zanu PF is rigging the elections already and MDC are pretending not to see what is happening and we know why. MDC are in these elections for the few gravy train seats Zanu PF gives away to entice the opposition to contest the flawed elections.

  7. “Dictatorships the world over subsist on voter apathy!” No, you moron, if ZEC officials are taking two hours to register one voter or are not registering anyone at all because they do not have VR9 forms what do you want the ordinary people to do! The Zanu PF dictatorship has managed to stay in power all the last decade because MDC leaders have failed to implement the democratic reforms designed to stop the regime rigging the vote.

    “If you go into elections next month, you are going to lose; the elections are done!” SADC warned MDC leaders at the Maputo summit in June 2013. SADC leaders were warning against contesting elections with no reforms in place.

    MDC leaders did not listen and Zanu PF went on to blatantly rig the vote and win with a landslide because the regime had carte blanche powers to rig the vote – nothing to do with voter apathy!

  8. Things were not made any better when Makarau recently knelt before President Robert Mugabe at State House when Zec had gone to register the First Family and some other high-ranking government officials.

    Listen to this MDC Official “That mere act of kneeling down before President, who himself is a political player and an aspiring Zanu PF Presidential candidate for the 2018 elections, was a public relations disaster for Makarau. She portrayed herself as someone who is completely subservient to Mugabe. As the Zec chairperson, this was the last thing that Makarau should have done”. I thought Gutu comes from GUTU in Masvingo kune Hunhu/Ubutu varume vachisvika pamusha pevanhu vanouchira madzimai achikwazisa Baba vepamusha uyu vanopfugama vachikwazisa, so what wrong did Makarau made, the act has nothing to do with politics but respect.

  9. Why do we all take the article as if it would make much sense to anybody? Does the author not contradict himself when he seems to say as opposition politicians they are working to stop ZANU from rigging the next elections when he has admitted their ICT experts and themselves do not know where the servers came from or are housed and what they already contain? What more evidence of vote rigging does the MDC want? Admitting rigging has already taken place and then saying they are watching ZANU so they won’t rig again is so contradictory it should never be coming from the pen of a renowned lawyer of Gutu’s standing. MDC is a ZANU project participating in elections to sanitise ZANU’s perpetual hold on power in Zimbabwe. Shame on them!! SADC tried to show us who these pretenders are like in 2013. We are now more than convinced they are on ZANU payroll: remember their president was given a ZANU PF wife et al.

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