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ID crisis derails voter registration

ID crisis derails voter registration

By Philemon Jambaya

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) target of registering one million new voters is likely to be a still birth following the chaos surrounding issuance of identity documents in the country.

ZEC spokesperson, Joice Leticia Kazembe this week announced that her entity was targeting those who turned 18 after the last election and urged them to take advantage of the ongoing mobile Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) blitz ahead of the delimitation exercise later this year.

“Of particular interest to us are the youths, the ones that have turned 18 and have not had a chance to register. The number has been growing since the last election. Even the adults that have not registered should take the opportunity and register because our target is to register one million new voters,” Kazembe said.

However, her interventions seem to oppose the reality on the ground as new registrants are facing difficulties in acquiring identity cards.

ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba raised alarm over the incapacitation at the Registrar Generals office.

“We are ready for the blitz, we have done all our procurements, there will be communication to stakeholders on the kit deployment plan,” she told state-media a fortnight ago.

“In the past when we did a voter registration blitz, when we created a new voters’ roll, we had synergies with the Registrar General’s office. When we availed our kit deployment plan, the RG would also deploy a team to support our exercise.

“Now the RG’s office has indicated to us that they are incapacitated. However, the RG ‘s office went to the Parliamentary Portfolio committee about their capacitation and will be able to start issuing IDs in January. That is why we moved the voter registration blitz to February because it is informing delimitation not by-elections.”

Analysts warned that the incapacitation at the Registrars Office would derail voter registration targets if not urgently attended to.

“They are targeting a million new voters while the Register General’s office is acting otherwise. It is a mammoth task for one to acquire an identification card which makes it difficult for one to register as a voter,” said Tapiwa Makoni, a political analyst.

Human rights lawyer, Fred Masarirevu said that ZEC and the Register General’s office needed to find common ground.

“In my opinion ZEC is simply exhibiting ignorance, deliberate or not. I can’t comment. It’s clear that other players are very lethargic in their approach, making the one million voter registration a joke.”

Currently at Makoni people are being turned away, they are not getting IDs, the office is citing technical difficulties and there is a huge backlog.

“Other than that, ZEC has virtually neglected its constitutional mandate to educate voters. Again a good number of people have failed to register because of issues to do with proof of residence but ZEC now spends time now informing the public on sites. Others who are easily frustrated will just turn their backs and go home. They are completely parallel with reality unless there is a miracle at the offices aforementioned,” Masarirevu said.

Elections Resource Centre (ERC) Programs Officer, Solomon Bobosibunu said the lack of identity documents among the youths was a major setback but was optimistic that ZEC would meet the one million target.

“We see the lack of IDs amongst youths as a major setback. ZEC may still meet the target but as ERC, we are dismayed by the lack of will to document the citizens. Documentation is not only important for voter registration but all other rights can be enjoyed from that perspective,” Bobosibunu said.

“IDs are a right that ensures citizens enjoy rights like voting in elections and accessing other services. It is pathetic that such a major investment in the BVR is not complemented by the issuance of IDs,” he said.

ZEC recently said it will set up more than 2 700 mobile voter registration centres across the country during the first phase of the mobile BVR exercise ahead of the 2023 general elections.

Away from the chaos surrounding the BVR exercise and lack of IDs, ZEC has set up a code of conduct will guide candidates on how they should behave and anyone who is aggrieved can approach the commission.

“Those found wanting will be called in and questioned. If there are any complaints against one person then action will be taken,” Kazembe said.

ID crisis derails voter registration