By Byron Mutingwende
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) has said that the time to educate and sensitise citizens about the commencement of the mobile registration exercise is inadequate.
“The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) notes an article published by the ZBC News on the mobile registration of Zimbabwean citizens by the Registrar General (RG) set to commence on Monday 4 September 2017. ZESN is concerned by the lack of adequate education and sensitisation of citizens prior to the rolling out of this exercise; which has only been publicised less than a week before the process begins,” ZESN said in a statement.
The independent electoral body said that while it appreciates the efforts of the RG’s office to facilitate the acquisition of National Identity Documents (IDs) in preparation of the voter registration process, it recommended that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) should be the only authority that makes official pronouncements on electoral processes in order to minimise confusion.
“For instance the RG’s pronouncements regarding whether citizens classified as Aliens will be allowed to register and vote in 2018 are contrary to the pronouncements made earlier by ZEC Chairperson who said that the so called Aliens are eligible to vote.”
According to the ZBC news bulletin, the RG stated that old metal identity cards will not be accepted for voting as they are not machine readable and will need to be replaced with the machine readable plastic identity cards. ZESN said the move may lead to the disenfranchisement of a significant number of citizens who may not be able to replace the identity documents in time to meet the timelines of the BVR exercise. It added that introducing too many new requirements to an ongoing process without adequate publicity may have a negative impact on voter confidence as the electorate will be unclear as to requirements for each process.
“We therefore call for the synchronisation of the processes as the case with other jurisdictions whereby mobile issuance of identity documents runs concurrent with the voter registration exercise to avoid unnecessary confusion to the voters as some may think that this process is the BVR since the RG’s process also requires taking photographs and finger prints.
“The requirement for replacement of metal IDs should have been made known and the service made available to the electorate much earlier. Furthermore, information availed by the RG’s office as reported is vague as to what additional requirements one need in order to get the replacement of the IDs. ZESN calls for more comprehensive information specifying whether the replacements of the IDs will be made at a cost as well as other key information on the operational schedule for the exercise,” ZEC said.
It requested the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to provide information to the public on its position regarding the developments about Aliens and the use of metal IDs given that they have a direct impact on the voter registration process, which the Commission is about to embark on in a few weeks’ time.
ZESN remains committed to the promotion of democratic elections in Zimbabwe through the adoption of an open data approach and the enfranchisement of all eligible voters.