THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been taken to court in a bid to force the elections management body to review its exorbitant fees for accessing a physical copy of the voters’ roll.
Reports emerged last week that independent election watchdog, the Elections Resources Centre (ERC) was charged a staggering US$187 000 to access the voter’s roll.
The opposition, ERC and other election watchdogs have described the fees as ridiculous and an attempt to deny interested stakeholders an opportunity to analyse the document.
Opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has repeatedly demanded an independent audit of the voters roll after several anomalies were unearthed.
Zec said it will not avail the voters roll through a portable electronic mode to protect it from possible tampering.
The decision has, however, riled electoral watchdogs which have described the move as a major blow towards holding credible and transparent elections next year.
ERC said it has approached the courts because the US$187 000 fee demanded by Zec was unreasonably high.
“The cost of the voters roll is ridiculous, unjustified and unreasonable.
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“ERC with the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has initiated litigation,” ERC’s Takunda Tsunga said.
ZLHR communications officer Kumbirai Mafunda confirmed that his organisation has taken the case.
“I can confirm that one of our lawyers Tarisai Mutambi has taken over the case,” Mafunda said.
“We believe the right to information is a fundamental constitutional right and the charges being charged by Zec are exorbitant, unreasonable and unconstitutional.
“We have received instructions from ERC and other aggrieved actors to act and protect their rights to access to information by making access to voters roll accessible by not levying exorbitant fees which inhibit access.”
Zec has activated statutory instrument 145 of 2022 which states that “a hard copy of a monochrome copy of the voters roll shall be one United States dollars per page of the national voters roll.”
“These fees are gazetted at US$1/ bank rate per page as per SI145/2022 or US$200 for the electronic one,” said Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana.
Access to the voters’ roll from Zec has been a real challenge for some political parties and candidates in the country.
In 2017, the late Zapu president Dumiso Dabengwa filed a court application to get an updated 2013 voters’ roll.
Dabengwa sought a determination on various issues that included provision of copies of voters roll, registration of voters and inspection of voters roll.
In 2018, the Lovemore Madhuku-led opposition National Constitutional Assembly (NCA) petitioned the courts seeking an order compelling the Zec to avail a copy of the voters’ roll.
The NCA said it intended to field candidates to contest the 2018 elections but could not go ahead without a copy of the voters’ roll to ensure the candidates were nominated by registered voters as required by the Electoral Act.
The party said in terms of section 21(4) of the Electoral Act it iwas entitled to have access to a copy of every voters’ roll to be used in the election, either in printed form or in electronic form.
The state of the voters roll ahead of the 2023 elections is under spotlight after various anomalies such as wrong addresses and duplicate names among others were unearthed by data analysts.