Zec voter registration blitz a case of putting the cart before the horse

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REVELATIONS that voter registration has hit a snag due to apathy is a worrying development, although it is hardly surprising given the lack of confidence in the electoral processes.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has set up 2 700 registration centres under the current blitz that runs until February 28, with the second leg scheduled for April 10 to 30.

Recent surveys by NewsDay revealed that several voter registration centres in the country were deserted, while potential voters, mostly the youth, claimed that they were being turned away over lack of documents such as national identity cards or valid passports and proof of residence. Zec says it is targeting one million new voters.

However, as it stands, this is far from being achievable. The lack of documents is a cause of concern particularly given the bureaucratic sloth at the Registrar-General (RG) offices that led to delays which discourage young voters from acquiring the documents.

This also raises the question: Why the Zec blitz first, before efforts to ensure the undocumented get the required papers first? The logical thing would have been to start with the RG officials undertaking a countrywide campaign to ensure those without the necessary paperwork get it, before Zec embarks on the campaign to register eligible voters.

As it is, the people, who are supposedly being targeted by Zec do not have the required documentation and the commission can legitimately argue that it tried to register all those it could. Zec simply put the cart before the horse, and we don’t know if it was deliberate to disenfranchise the young eligible registrants who will miss out on the opportunity to determine their own fate.

This exacerbates lack of confidence in electoral processes.

Zec was originally supposed to carry out this exercise in December last year, but called it off claiming that it had realised that the target population — the youth had no identity documents. It still is going ahead without any remedial action.

Lack of IDs is a damning indictment on government as it is supposed to ensure all citizens have proper identification. Voting is a fundamental act of civic participation through which citizens contribute to democracy.

Election Resource Centre legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga aptly summed up the challenges associated with the voter registration blitz. “There was insufficient information provided on the location of the mobile BVR kits and the blitz itself,” he said.

“There has been increasing apathy brought about by disputed 2018 elections and the resultant lack of implementation of electoral reforms necessary to build public confidence in electoral processes which will increase participation. The failure to implement reforms is impacting participation levels.”

Unless the issues affecting registration of voters are adequately addressed, the Zec registration blitz will remain a farce.