11 October 2017
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) in partnership with Zimbabwe Human Rights (ZimRights) is assessing the ongoing voter registration process as part of efforts to contribute towards improvement in the conduct of electoral processes in the country. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) rolled out the first of four phases of the National Voter Registration Blitz at 2 508 voter registration centres across the country, starting yesterday, Tuesday the 10th of October 2017. The registration blitz is separated into four phases, each phase running for 16 days each, whilst the whole registration blitz shall last 72 days.
The ERC and ZimRights deployed monitors in Zimbabwe’s 63 districts observing the legislative, administrative and environment surrounding the voter registration process. Further, the organisations established a call centre aimed at soliciting feedback from citizens across the country whilst also disseminating election related information as and when requested. The two organizations seek to mobilise for citizen participation and provide oversight to ensure compliance of the voter registration process with voter registration principles that include inclusiveness, comprehensiveness, transparency, credibility and an informed public. The ERC and ZimRights jointly submit their findings from the first two days of the blitz registration process as detailed below.
Opening and closing of voter registration centers
Voter registration blitz started at 07:45 hours at the majority of the registration centers, with sporadic reports of centers opening later than the stipulated time. On Tuesday the 10th of October the Dzivarasekwa Community Hall voter registration officials reportedly arrived at 08:25 hours and only opened for registration at 10:00 hours, whilst at the Town Centre in Chitungwiza, the registration centre reportedly opened at 11:15 hours. Voter registration centres in Mutare Central Ward 10 at DA Complex and Chikomba West are reportedly to have opened after 8am.
Time taken per registrant
As opposed to initial reports that indicated that the voter registration process was taking an average of 20 minutes, it has been noted that since the voter registration process commenced, ZEC officials are becoming familiar with the Biometric Voter Registration Kits (BVR) kits hence the process now taking an average of 5 to 7 minutes per registrant. However, there are isolated reports particularly in Bulilima East (Ward 1), Tsholotsho (Ward 22) and Gwanda (Ward 2) where the voter registration process is taking about 12-15 minutes per registrant.
Unavailability of Commissioners of Oath
The commencement of voter registration blitz has led to a high demand for Commissioners of Oath to assist potential registrants in signing VR9 forms. Reports from most parts of the country suggest failure by ZEC to provide Commissioners of Oath at all voter registration centres. Potential registrants at Epworth Secondary School, Dzivarasekwa Community Hall, Rememberance in Mbare, Muzarabani in Mashonaland Central and Seke Teachers’ College, had to outsource such services with some having to fork out between 25c and a $1.
Further complaints were reported at Zengeza 1 pachibhorani, Machipisa in Highfields, Epworth Secondary School, Gokwe Centre, Kariba DA Public Works, Muzarabani Pamal Agency, Mutare Central and Shurugwi Makusha Hall.
In an attempt to assist potential registrants in Zengeza 1,2, Machipisa and Mt Pleasant, the ERC deployed Simon Chabuka of Magaya/Mandizvidza Legal practitioners who assisted by signing VR.9 forms for over 50 registrants.
The voter registration process has so far been characterized by a generally calm and peaceful environment demonstrated by absence of observed cases of intimidation, violence or related acts of coercion. While voter registration has widely been orderly, there have however been isolated reports of intimidation. A report from Budiriro indicated that there were some ZANU PF members recording the confirmation of registration serial numbers of their supporters who had registered to vote, stating that these serial numbers would be used to allocate stands for those who would have registered. The same incident took place at Epworth Secondary School where aspiring registrants were informed to go and register and in turn produce their registration slips to the ZANU PF chairman. Such incidents culminate into fear among residents, since BVR is a new system and people are still skeptical about the system.
ZEC must remain guided by Section 156 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe which compels the Commission to ensure that voter registration is simple and accurate. ZEC is urged to relax the requirement of proof of residence.
The Commission must ensure that all centers are opened on time to ensure comprehensiveness and accessibility of the voter registration process to all potential registrants.
ZEC is urged to intensify voter education for voter registration in line with Section 62 of the Constitution of Zimbabwe. This will go a long way in ensuring that the public is well informed. Further, the Electoral Act must immediately be aligned with the Constitution to open up voter education to other players without restrictions.
State institutions namely Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission, National Prosecution Authority, Zimbabwe Republic Police, and the Judicial Service Commission are encouraged to fully implement provisions of Section 133 H and J of the Electoral Act to investigate and address cases of politically motivated violence and intimidation that may arise during the voter registration exercise.