‘Drop in voter numbers disturbing’

Local News
Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana, in an interview with the NewsDay yesterday attributed the decline to the removal of deceased voters from the roll.

BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/SHARON BUWERIMWE THE number of registered voters as of April 30 has dropped by 10 448 compared to the 2018 figures, a trend analysts said was disturbing.

According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), Zimbabwe’s total voter population currently stands at 5 685 258 compared to 5 695 706 in 2018. Females constitute 54% of the registered voters and males 46%.

Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana, in an interview with the NewsDay yesterday attributed the decline to the removal of deceased voters from the roll.

“Remember the commission is also removing deceased people, so many people have registered deaths with the Registrar-General’s office so that’s the other reason. Numbers increased due to COVID-19 deaths as well,” Mangwana said.

In January, Zec triggered a storm after it announced plans to remove 35 085 names of deceased voters from the votes roll, hardly two months after saying it had identified 22 000 deceased voters on the roll.

Critics accused Zec of “cooking” the figures ahead of the 2023 elections.

Recently, Zec said it registered 110 000 new voters in a voter registration blitz which ran from April 11 to 30.

The exercise was marred by widespread apathy, with civic electoral watchdogs complaining that prospective registrants did not have identity documents.

On Monday, Mangwana told delegates attending a political parties meeting hosted by 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation that Zec, resources permitting,  was contemplating another blitz.

“We are fixing the gap as we are now approaching 2023. Voter registration has not stopped…

“What the commission will consider in the near future is to see if it can mobilise resources for another possible blitz if resources are there,” Mangwana said.

Analysts and electoral watchdogs expressed concern over voter registration apathy, saying it was caused by the relentless attacks on the credibility of Zec’s handling of elections.

“Obviously, some voters do not see the need to participate in an election which, according to opposition parties, has a predetermined outcome. Nonetheless, new voters were added but the net is still negative,” Kudzai Mutisi said.

Political analyst Kudakwashe Munemo called for an independent audit of the voters roll.

“It is very shocking considering that political parties and civil society organisations mobilised people to register to vote. There is need for an audit of the voters roll to ascertain whether the rate of people registering has been slower than the removal of the deceased, something which I thinks is incorrect,” Munemo said.

Heal Zimbabwe Trust programmes manager Edknowledge Mandikwaza said voter apathy would have a negative impact on the 2023 elections.

“Root causes to voter apathy, however, are multiple and diverse — voters are fatigued for participating in elections whose results are always contested and bring no change. They (voters) have been brutalised and see taking part in electoral politics as inviting violence and to worsen matters,” Mandikwaza said.

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust’s Ignatius Sadziwa said: “Conventional voter registration methods are no longer yielding, thus we need a paradigm shift in our approaches and move in sync with international trends. There are over 1,5 million potential first-time voter registrants,” he said.

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