The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) will be using data from the old voters’ roll to compile a new register, says the commission’s chairperson Rita Makarau.
She said that they had not yet set a timeline for the production of a new voters’ roll to be used in the 2018 general elections, but hoped that would happen “soon”.
“So far, we have seen it prudent to use some data from the old roll as a basis of the new voters’ register. However, we may change strategies as we move,” said Makarau.
Despite the decision to use the old roll, she acknowledged that they had not deployed experts to analyse the register, which has been blamed for widespread errors and anomalies in the past.
Political parties and election watchdogs insist that the old roll was stuffed with ghost voters and others who had not registered or had relocated to other countries in the last three decades.
They say the roll is also blighted by duplications of voters while a substantial portion of the electorate is missing. The opposition and critics of President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu (PF) government have been calling for a complete overhaul of the old roll.
They fear that depending on it to generate a new one might result in some anomalies being retained. The opposition went to the 2013 general elections without the electronic version of the roll that they argued would be easier to use in auditing voters and identifying shortcomings.
Makarau acknowledged that they had established some weaknesses in the old roll when they did a pilot voter registration exercise for two constituencies—Chirumanzu-Zibagwe and Mount Darwin West.The two seats fell vacant when Joice Mujuru and Emmerson Mnangagwa became vice presidents.
Mujuru, who held the Mount Darwin seat, was retained as vice president in the 2013 elections after attaining that post in 2004, but she was removed from the Zanu (PF) congress last year. Mnangagwa had to vacate the Chirumanzu-Zibagwe seat when he replaced Mujuru, his succession rival, last year. There will be by-elections in both constituencies at the end of this month.
Makarau said they had “learnt a few lessons” from the pilot project, chief among them the need to increase voter education campaigns during the registration exercise.
Observers complained that there was insufficient voter education during the pilot project that was completed last month. Makarau said the voter registration pilot project would be extended to Wedza North, but did not explain why they had chosen that constituency.
Meanwhile, a diaspora group of academics and political and economic analysts, the Zimbabwe Social Democrats, has called for urgent electoral reform. “The root cause of Zimbabwe’s economic and political problems is the country’s failure to hold free, fair and democratic elections. Accordingly nothing of any substance or meaning can ever be achieved until we address this fundamental problem.
“The right of every Zimbabwean to a free, fair and meaningful vote is not a privilege but a birth right and we want this right restored to all Zimbabweans without further delay,” stated the group in a statement.
Meaningful reform could only be attained through the implementation of all democratic reforms agreed in 2008 through the Global Political Agreement, which paved the way for the 2009-2013 Government of National Unity (GNU), it said.
It suggested that a national body must be appointed and tasked to implement all the GPA reforms as a matter of urgency. “We will also support all peaceful demonstration and protests demanding the full restitution of every Zimbabwean’s basic and democratic right to a meaningful say in the governance of the country. We stand united as one in our demand for a free and fair vote for all Zimbabweans and in our vision that this is the only way out of the economic and political hell Zimbabwe now finds itself in,” said the forum.