BY BLESSED MHLANGA
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday revealed that it registered only 2 000 new voters in 2021, a drop in the ocean in the face of various campaigns by political parties and civic groups to register first-time voters.
The ruling Zanu PF and opposition parties rolled out voter registration campaigns during the course of the year to register millions of first-time voters ahead of the 2023 harmonised elections.
Zanu PF has set a target to increase the number of its registered voters to five million to ensure a 65% election victory.
The main opposition MDC Alliance is targeting six million voters.
A number of voter registration awareness campaigns running under various hashtags were launched in November ahead of the suspended Zec mobile voter registration blitz which was supposed to kick off on December 6 and run for six days.
The electoral management body suspended the voter registration blitz following reports that the Registrar-General’s Office was incapacitated to issue identification documents.
A national ID or valid passport is a requirement for one to be eligible to register to vote.
In Bulawayo, civic groups launched EkhayaVote2023 campaign to mobilise virgin voters in Matabeleland after Zec warned that the region risked losing a number of constituencies in the next delimitation exercise — the redrawing of electoral boundaries.
Zimbabwe last carried a delimitation exercise in 2007 ahead of the 2008 harmonised election.
Zec will conduct a delimitation exercise in next year as provided for under section 161(1) of the Constitution on delimitation of electoral boundaries.
But Zec commissioner Jasper Mangwana yesterday dropped a bombshell during a virtual rally for the youth that the commission had so far only registered 2 000 first-time voters.
“We have activated our social media platforms to send out voter registration information and we are trying as a commission during these times of COVID-19,” he said.
“Imagine Zec offices have been open even though we have been in COVID-19 and had scaled down our numbers, but we only registered 2 000 new voters this year out of our 63 district and 10 provincial offices in the country.”
Zec had also announced plans to roll out a second voter registration blitz to run for 35 days, which started two days ago.
Voter registration is provided for in section 17A of the Electoral Act.
The revelations by Mangwana came at a time when the country is headed for by-elections to fill 133 parliamentary and local government seats, which fell vacant following the recall of MDC Alliance representatives by a rival faction led by Douglas
President Emmerson Mnangagwa last week said he would announce the by-election dates early next month.
Virgin voters, who register after the dates have been proclaimed, will not cast their votes in the by-elections.
Wilson Mbanga, a youth who participated in the virtual rally, said: “There is a greater need for education on the importance of voter registration.
“Why do I have to vote? Yes I know it’s part of my rights to vote, but why do I have to vote? I think that is what is making us youth and other people not to register and vote because that education is missing.”
Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba bemoaned the lack of adequate funding for the rollout of voter registration campaigns.
Election watchdogs such as the Zimbabwe Election Support Network have, on several occasions, called on Zec to decentralise voter registration to ward centres.
Mnangagwa and his main challenger, Nelson Chamisa of the MDC Alliance have in the past few months been conducting whirlwind tours across the country drumming up support ahead of next year’s do-or-die polls, with both politicians banking on the youth vote which they touted as the game changer.
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