A local independent election watchdog has dragged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to the High Court seeking an order directing the electoral management body to release a soft copy of the voters’ roll.
Section 21 (3) of the Electoral Act makes it mandatory for Zec to provide the voters’ roll to any person who requests it.
The status and credibility of the voters’ roll has been under spotlight after data analysts such as Team Pachedu exposed a number of anomalies in the document and warned that this could lead to another disputed election in 2023.
Zec has angrily reacted to the exposé and instead filed a police report against Team Pachedu after accusing the activists of ‘terrorist’ activities meant to destabilise the country’s electoral processes.
Independent election watchdog, Project Vote 263 in a High Court application dated November 28 accused the electoral management body of refusing to release the document to hide its alleged plot to rig the 2023 elections.
Project Vote 263 executive director Youngerson Matete said Zec’s refusal was patently unlawful, unjustified and unreasonable.
“I, therefore, submit that the respondent’s action is unlawful, unjustified and grossly unreasonable and actuated by bad faith,” Matete said in his founding affidavit.
“The reason that it is enhancing security features on the electronic voters’ roll is disingenuous and unsustainable.
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“It’s a smokescreen being used to effectively deny us the copy.”
Matete said Zec’s denial to release the voters’ roll was a clear indication that the country may not have free and fair elections next year.
He said Project Vote 263 is being denied an opportunity to meaningfully participate in the upcoming delimitation exercise — the creation of new electoral boundaries.
“Without access to the voters’ roll, applicant cannot be guaranteed of a free, fair election in terms of the law,” he said.
“Furthermore, through the voters’ roll the applicant is able to participate in the delimitation exercise informed by details of the registered voters.
“Presently the applicant is unable to meaningfully participate in the ongoing exercise which will soon be concluded.”
The opposition and other interested groups have been demanding the release of the voters’ roll for an independent audit, but Zec has pegged fees to access the document beyond reach.
Zec is demanding as much as US$187 000 for a physical copy of the voters’ roll.
“The respondent’s offer of a hard copy is not being made in good faith because the cost of obtaining it is vastly different from the electronic soft copy,” Matete said
“In this regard the cost of the hard copy is US$200 plus printing cost of us$1 per page which translates to US$187 000.
“On the other hand the cost of obtaining a copy is just US$200. The applicant can’t manage the cost of a hard copy.
“Furthermore, the electronic form is portable and can be analysed with relative ease, whilst a hard copy comprising 187 000 pages is practically impossible to carry and analyse.
“I am also advised that it takes 30 days to print the hard copy and this is evidence of the fact that it is not easy to work with a printed copy.”
Matete’s Project Vote 263 filed the court application through their lawyers, Wintertons Legal Practitioners.
Past independent audits of the voters’ roll have exposed various irregularities such as the presence of ghost voters and dead people.
In June this year, Zec said it removed over 32 010 deceased persons from the voter's roll in accordance with the Electoral Act.
In November 2021, Zec said it removed “22 656 dead people” from the voters’ roll.