BY NQOBANI NDLOVU
A POOR voter registration turnout is haunting Bulawayo, with less than five residents taking part in the ongoing exercise each month, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has said.
If there is no voter buy-in, the province will lose three constituencies during the delimitation exercise.
Zec is conducting a voter registration exercise at its Bulawayo offices, and according to the provincial elections officer Innocent Ncube, the turnout in the city is disappointing.
“People are not coming. On average, we are registering zero a month and this is of serious concern to us. The same also applies when we do outreach sometimes to register residents as voters,” he said yesterday.
“We have outreach programmes to register people in their wards, but sadly, very few people come. They do not come forward to register and when they do come, at most, it will be less than five people during the whole outreach.”
Ncube warned Bulawayo would lose constituencies as a result during the next delimitation exercise as the voter registered population for the city falls far short of the minimum threshold.
Bulawayo, with 257 924 registered voters, has 12 constituencies.
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Independent election watchdog, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) has also warned of the same, saying the same fate is likely to befall Matabeleland North (338 593) and South (263 690) in the next demarcation exercise.
“What happens is that we take the total registered voter population and divide that by 210 constituencies that we have. After that, we get the average registered voter population per constituency; the figures must be the same, but with a plus or minus 20% difference as provided by the law,” Ncube said.
“In Bulawayo, with the numbers that we have, the city is likely to lose three constituencies, and that is a serious matter of concern … it also affects development. With few constituencies, it means less in Constituency Development Funds (CDF).”
Analysts said the poor turnout to the voter registration programme in the city is a vote of no confidence on Zec over its handling of the country’s elections.
“It is a vote of no confidence against Zec and against elections as a means to usher in a better and prosperous Zimbabwe. It is people saying we don’t trust the system and we are tired of our votes translating to nothing,” Bulawayo social and political commentator Effie Ncube said.
“Electoral politics in Zimbabwe has not been delivering the desired democratic and development outcomes. So, unless and until our elections get to a stage where they can deliver freedom and prosperity for the poor masses, people will increasingly question the value of voting and just stay at home.”
Another commentator, Michael Ndiweni, added: “People think that voter registration is an event that comes when elections are about to be held. This is so because Zec is only visible towards elections … Secondly, looking at the voting percentages; people have lost trust in elections due to perennial contestations and shenanigans of the previous and current regime.”