New voter registrants sceptical about violent-free polls

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A mock exercise by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission on the use of the Biometric voter registration registration kits in Mabvuku

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA

FIRST time voters have expressed concern over the possibility of violence ahead of the March 26 by-elections and 2023 general elections saying there have not been meaningful measures put in place to ensure peaceful polls.

Zimbabwe’s past elections have been marred by violence, which has claimed lives of citizens and left several others injured.

As the March 26 by-elections draw closer, the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has already exposed in its January monitoring report that one person died in a violent incident while 98 cases of harassment of individuals were recorded throughout the country in that month alone.

NewsDay last week interviewed first-time voter registrants, mostly the youth, who said they feared that the March 26 by-elections and 2023 elections might be marred by violence, which might discourage new voters from participating.

University of Zimbabwe student Tafadzwa Chantell Chihwehwete (19) said: “I felt like I had become a full citizen after I registered to vote. However, I am worried that the electoral environment is tense and clashes are likely.”

Takunda Chinoda, a Great Zimbabwe University student said: “In the previous polls, some people lost their lives. I registered to vote in 2018, but failed to cast my vote as I failed to locate the constituency where I was supposed to cast my vote. It is important that people must be educated on the electoral process.”

Kudzai Zhakata (22) of ward 11 in Chivhu said she would cast her vote as long as the elections were held in a transparent and violent-free environment.

Elections Resource Centre legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga said there was need to strengthen voter education in order to fight apathy.

“There is lack of tangible electoral reforms.  The current wave of apathy is testament to the breakdown of trust between citizens and Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) due to the disputed elections in 2018, and the failure to resolve electoral disputes. Citizens are losing belief in the electoral system and participatory democracy,” Tsunga said.

Zec established 2 700 voter centres for its registration blitz and urged the public to desist from violence and hate speech during elections.

“Any candidates and political parties who violate the code of conduct must be reported at your nearest police station. The offence is contravening the Electoral Act and specifies the type of violation,” the electoral mother body said in a statement.

National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) spokesperson Obert Gutu said peace committees had been set up at provincial level to stop violence during elections.


National Peace and Reconciliation Commission (NPRC) spokesperson Obert Gutu

“As NPRC, we have come up with a comprehensive document on peace-building strategies that will act as a roadmap on ensuring violent-free communities,” he said.

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