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Why everyone has to register to vote

President Robert Mugabe last week proclaimed that the registration of voters will open on Friday and run until January 15 next year.

THE STANDARD COMMENT

This voter-registration process is certainly not like any other that Zimbabwe has undertaken in the almost four decades of its independence.

For the first time ever, the country would be using the biometric voter registration (BVR) system.

According to BioLink, a reputable service provider in that field, BVR is a highly advanced biometric information system that enrols voters in a very efficient manner.

The system minimises election fraud and helps accelerate the voter identification process.

Some of the key features include that it provides biometric parameters to identify the voters by fingerprints, iris and voice.

It also provides the highest level of security settings for data protection.

However, the BVR system does not totally eliminate chances of voter fraud, as was demonstrated during the recent Kenyan presidential elections.

Kenya is one of the African countries that have led the way in adopting BVR in the management of their elections, but this did not stop people from manipulating the August presidential poll that has since been annulled by that country’s Supreme Court.

For Zimbabwe, BVR is a great leap of faith considering the history of election rigging and outright theft of elections.

Zimbabweans need to give the new system a chance and this is why it is critical for every citizen who will be 18 years and above next year to take advantage of this exercise and be part of the fresh voters’ roll.

The country has an opportunity to create a clean voters’ roll that does not contain names of dead people.

Zanu PF will certainly employ the usual dirty tricks to try and frustrate Zimbabweans from registering in their numbers, especially in urban areas where its support is not always guaranteed.

The stakes are high and Zimbabweans should not be deterred by any attempts to disefranchise them.

The fact that there has been no voter education on the new system could be the first indicator that the ruling party does not intend to play by the rules.

Already, there are reports that Zanu PF activists are going around rural constituencies misinforming gullible voters on how the BVR system works.

They tell villagers that the BVR system enables political parties to see how they would vote come election day.

Opposition parties must take the initiative and educate their supporters on what the new system entails and encourage them to register as voters.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must also ensure that it fulfils its constitutional mandate by rolling out a comprehensive voter registration exercise that would run concurrently with the national registration exercise.

The BVR system, without doubt, presents Zimbabwe with the best chance to organise an election that passes the credibility test and every citizen has to be part of this historical phase in the shaping of our democracy.

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