Watchdogs fret over low voter registration figures

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Jasper Mangwana

BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA
ELECTORAL watchdogs have raised fears that a significant number of prospective voters may be disenfranchised in 2023 after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) failed to register them during the just-ended biometric voter registration blitz.

Statistics released by Zec on Wednesday revealed that only 109 405 people were registered as new voters in the second mobile voter registration blitz that began on April 11, 2022 and ran until April 30.

Voter registration is, however, still ongoing at Zec’s 73 centres in all districts throughout the country.

Electoral watchdogs said some of the challenges that new voter registrants faced included lack of national identity cards as the Zec voter registration blitz was detached from the Home Affairs ministry’s ID registration blitz, which commenced on April 1 and will end in September.

“It is not encouraging that out of a possible two million voters, only 100 000 have been registered,” Zimbabwe Elections Support Network chairperson Andrew Makoni
said.

“It means that there are some challenges somewhere. There is need for more of these blitzes even in those areas where Zec first visited. Zec must make it a continuous process if resources are permitting in order to cater for those last minute voter registrants who rush to register to vote when the election is imminent. It is also prudent for Zec to run its blitz during the same time and area where the Home Affairs ministry is carrying out its ID registration exercise.”

Election Resource Centre’s legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga said: “While the number of youths who remain unregistered is high, it is encouraging that the number of registered voters continues to increase. The blitzes have shown the need for concerted efforts beyond the usual to engage citizens on electoral processes and to expand the voter registration blitz beyond these two phases.”

Currently, political parties are running campaigns to encourage people to register to vote, with the Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) targeting six million new voters to secure poll victory come 2023.

CCC secretary for elections Ian Makone said:  “We are far from being satisfied with the numbers of the new registered voters. At this rate, where only 100 000 people are registered in a single blitz, the bulk of the prospective voters are going to be left out. We will continue to engage Zec to ensure that it acts according to its mandate to fulfil the citizens’ right to
vote.”

Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana blamed the low voter registration turnout on negative publicity against the electoral
body.

“The commission has a new election calendar and is currently focusing on the delimitation process, but we have intensified our voter education to ensure the people get the message. We expect the number to rise as the access to identity documents has improved and it resulted in the number of new registrants doubling compared to the first
phase.

“We need to talk to people in depth pertaining to allegations levelled against the commission, which are also not the correct position and have resulted in people not getting interested in participating in the electoral processes. We have new registrants who are over 80 years old, which shows a positive public perception on how Zec is performing its duties,” Mangwana said.

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