THE just-ended voters roll inspection and registration exercise have exposed the government’s shortcomings in the compilation of the newly introdu
ced ward voters’ rolls, among other critical factors likely to affect the harmonised elections on March 29.
A survey by the Zimbabwe Independent during the inspection period revealed that the exercise was marked by logistical problems and lack of coordination between the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and the Registrar-General’s Office (RG).
Candidates and prospective voters have complained of attempts by RG officials to deny them their right to inspect the rolls and register to vote.
Harare North lawmarker Trudy Stevenson and aspiring Harare Ward 7 councillor Brighton Chiwola, both of the MDC (Mutambara formation), were this week forced to seek a court order to inspect the voters’ roll.
The two wanted to check the names and details of their respective nominators at two inspection centres in the constituency.
High Court judge Justice Tendai Uchena on Tuesday granted a consent order to Stevenson and Chiwola.
Despite the granting of the order, Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, later addressed a press conference refuting allegations that the applicants were denied their right to inspect the rolls.
During the Independent’s survey, it emerged that names of people originally registered within wards and constituencies were missing from the ward rolls that were reportedly hastily compiled by ZEC from previous constituency rolls.
A Zanu PF official coordinating the nomination of an aspiring councillor in Harare’s Ward 17 told the Independent at Beit Hall in Mabelreign last week that he could not find names of 10 nominators backing him.
This, the official, who asked for anonymity, said was despite the nominators having registered and voted in previous elections in the area.
It was only after a ZEC supervisor who was present phoned the Registrar-General’s Office and ascertained that they were in the national database that he got help.
The supervisor advised the Zanu PF official to tell the nominators to re-register at the inspection centre.
After getting the court order to inspect the rolls, legislator Stevenson said six names of her nominators were not on the ward voters roll despite having registered in the constituency during the previous registration exercise.
She had to replace them ahead of the sitting of the nomination court today since a candidate should have at least 10 nominators in the voters roll, according to electoral laws.
It emerged that the building of ward-specific voters rolls from the previous constituency and national voters rolls after delimitation was a cumbersome process that could have resulted in most people being left out.
“The introduction of the ward voters rolls is causing a lot of confusion. It was a mammoth task for the RG’s Office to have gone through the national or constituency voters roll from A to Z and look at addresses of people one by one and then come up with individual ward rolls for the whole country,” the Zanu PF official said.
Stevenson, Chiwola and MDC (Tsvangirai formation) spokesman Nelson Chamisa questioned how the RG’s Office came up with the ward voters rolls before the proclamation of the final delimitation report was made.
The ZEC presented the initial report to President Robert Mugabe on January 16 before it was tabled before parliament, which was expected to examine and debate it in terms of the constitution.
This was, however, not done as parliament immediately adjourned to April 8.
President Mugabe proclaimed the final delimitation report with the constituency and ward boundaries into law on February 8, a week after the inspection of the voters roll had started.
“We wonder how the RG’s Office came up with the wards voters rolls for the whole country before the proclamation of the final delimitation report,” Chamisa said.
“Everything is being fast-tracked. Parliament was not afforded the opportunity to input into the report which has remained a secret document and that is why we have always expressed concerns over issues of legitimacy in our electoral processes.”
There are 1 958 wards nationwide.
The electorate will vote simultaneously for the presidential, House of Assembly, senatorial and local council candidates within their wards. Chamisa said there was need to extend the voters roll inspection to enable people to cast their votes.
The Independent also established that most prospective voters were not immediately given registration slips at the centres as forms were taken to the RG’s office where information was to be fed into the national database. The slips were returned to the centres for collection a week later. It took two weeks for one to get fully registered and issued with the registration certificate.
It was not clear when and where prospective voters who registered during the last days would collect their certificates.
At Haig Park Primary School, prospective voters, including this reporter, who registered on Tuesday last week, were advised to collect their registration certificates after two days. Those who returned on Thursday last week could not collect them until Wednesday and Thursday this week.
“This is very inconveniencing. It’s not easy to get time off from work to come and register and then be told to come back for collection on another day,” said one man at the inspection centre. “I have been here on three occasions and I only managed to collect the registration certificate today (yesterday).”
The ZEC director of public relations Shupikai Mashereni referred questions on registration and the voters roll to the RG’s Office where officials could not be reached for comment.
The ZEC says all the necessary logistics are in place for the elections.
Noel Kututwa, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) chairperson, said the inspection was characterised by a low turnout during the first week. He said this could be attributed to lack of voter education.
The turnout however increased during the last days.
He said ZESN officials had established that most residents were not aware of the exercise while some centres only started operating on Monday instead of Friday last week.
Kututwa said the working class did not have time to inspect the voters rolls and there was need to extend the inspection period by two more weeks.