By Professor Matodzi
Harare, July 30, 2013 – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been ordered to provide MDC-T party election candidates with hard copies of the voters’ roll by midday Wednesday and then avail electronic copies to interested candidates once their information technology system is back online after the elections management body had claimed that their electronic system was down.
The order granted by High Court Judge Justice Joseph Mafusire on Tuesday evening came after lawyers representing the MDC-T party filed an urgent chamber application on Tuesday challenging the decision by ZEC and Registrar of Voters, Tobaiwa Tonneth Mudede not to avail electronic copies of the voters’ roll to interested election candidates and observers.
ZEC, through its lawyers had opposed the request by the MDC-T to provide free electronic copies of the voters’ rolls inspite of express statutory provisions that compel the elections management body to do so.
In refusing to give electronic copies of the voters’ roll to MDC-T party candidates, ZEC had said it only wanted to give them hard copies of the roll that were still being printed and cost $30 000 to access.
But Justice Mafusire on Tuesday ordered ZEC to provide all the hard copy constituency voters’ rolls free of charge to MDC-T election candidates by midday on Wednesday 31 July 2013 and then provide some electronic copies of the voters’ roll once the elections management body’s IT system is back online after claiming that it was offline.
The lawyers argued that Section 21 (6) (a) Electoral Act states that voters’ rolls are to be given to every nominated candidate, free of charge, with one electronic copy of the voters’ roll to be used in the election which the candidate is contesting and if the candidate so requests, ZEC must provide him or her with a printed copy of the roll for a reasonable fee. Electronic copies of rolls provided in terms of section 21 must be formatted so that their contents can be searched and analysed.
On Monday, ZEC shielded Mudede from responding to a barrage of queries raised by journalists and diplomats over the shambolic state of the country’s roll of registered voters.
Journalists and diplomats who attended a ZEC briefing held in the capital Monday fielded several questions to the elections management body about the state of the voters’ roll and demanded that Mudede respond to their enquiries.
The journalists and the diplomats wanted Mudede to explain why he had preferred to avail hard copies of the voters’ roll instead of a user friendly and electronic format of the register. The media practitioners also wanted to be advised when he would stop issuing voter registration certificates to people who could not locate their names on the voters’ roll as by late Monday some people were still being issued with the certificates.
But ZEC came to Mudede’s defence and safeguarded him from responding.