ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau announced last week her commission was unable to raise $50 million that is needed to establish an electronic voters’ roll which would go a long way towards making Zimbabwe’s electoral system credible.
The Standard Editorial
Makarau said the equipment needed to capture data electronically was very expensive, costing about $5 000 per kit and that ZEC would require 10 000 of such kits to ensure that all polling stations were catered for.
Such costly equipment, coupled with the need to pay allowances to people who would go around gathering data, prompted ZEC to consider retaining the old voters’ roll inherited from the Registrar General’s office.
While the commissioner’s argument might make sense in this tough economic environment, the underlying message is that the Zanu PF government does not want a transparent voters’ roll which can be obtained by the click of a button, and wants to retain the old patchy roll which has been manipulated several times to its advantage. There is clearly a lack of political will to establish an up-to-date electronic voters’ roll which would be acceptable to all contesting parties in Zimbabwe.
Because of this, the commission has not done much in trying to raise funds for this critical project which would make it easy for individuals to check if they were properly registered and for political parties to identify ghost voters.
If ZEC had appealed for help, we do not believe the international community, including Sadc and AU, that has expressed concern over electoral disputes in Zimbabwe, would have all refused to assist in providing funding and technical assistance needed to produce the electronic roll.
There are several NGOs in Zimbabwe with an interest in governance that would have gladly helped ZEC to come up with a digital copy of the roll. Already, several attempts have been made by these organisations to produce their own versions of the electronic rolls and it would be wrong to assume they would not be prepared to render assistance to ZEC.
The cost of producing the roll might actually be much lower than the $50 million figure peddled by Makarau.
Whatever the true cost, in this day and age, an electronic voters’ roll is a must and government needs to urgently prioritise this project which is very important for the country.