By Fungi Kwaramba
Opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC says it has gathered “overwhelming information” that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) wants to disenfranchise voters in their urban strongholds by increasing voter registration points in rural areas.
This comes as Zec is going ahead full steam with its campaigns to educate the public and civic groups on the much-debated Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) exercise, ahead of the eagerly-anticipated 2018 national elections.
Speaking in an interview with the Daily News yesterday, MDC secretary for elections, Murisi Zwizwai, claimed that Zec had allocated more BVR points in rural areas than urban areas — raising fears that this is a plan to frustrate urban voters into not registering.
Traditionally, the MDC has fared better in urban areas than in rural areas, while Zanu PF has relied on the rural vote which both the opposition and rights group say is secured through coercion and intimidation.
“Zec wants to manipulate voters’ registration by starving areas that are perceived to be opposition strongholds, such as urban centres.
“A voters’ registration process should be transparent and inclusive, yet that is not what is happening.
“The Zec subcommittee involving political parties has not yet received the full report because this is all being done secretly,” Zwizwai said.
“We are also aware that Zec wants to register Harare last and bus people to disrupt the process as they have done in the past.
“As the MDC, we have said we are not going to allow this to happen, as this is a clear plot to disenfranchise the urban voter … it is calculated constitutional mischief by Zec.
“We are aware that there is an invisible hand of Zanu PF in all this and we are going to fight to ensure that Harare province, which has the highest numbers in terms of population has the highest number of voter registration centres,” Zwizwai added.
He said from the information gathered so far, Bulawayo will have 392 centres, Matabeleland South 623 and Midlands 1 348 registration centres in phase one of the registration exercise.
In phase two, Matabeleland North will tentatively have 764 registration centres, Masvingo 1 238 and Manicaland, will be dealt with in phase three, will have 1 003 centres.
For phase three, Mashonaland East would have 1 200, while Mashonaland Central would have 822.
In the final phase, Mashonaland West would have 1 303 centres, compared to a mere 700 for Harare.
And yet according to the 2012 national census, Harare province — which includes Chitungwiza and Ruwa — had the highest provincial population of 2 123 132 million, while Mashonaland West had a population of 1 501 656 million people.
In this regard, the MDC wants the voter registration centres to reflect the population census figures.MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu said the party would guard jealously the urban vote, while trying to improve its performance in areas where they had previously performed poorly.
“We are closely monitoring all the happenings around BVR at Zec … We are acutely aware of the fact that the Zanu PF regime is manipulating Zec to ensure that there will be more polling stations in rural areas compared to urban areas.
“Zec won’t be allowed to adulterate and bastardise both the BVR process and the whole process of ensuring that next year’s plebiscite is credible and legitimate,” Gutu thundered.
Tsvangirai recently warned that Mugabe and his warring ruling Zanu PF — fearful of receiving an even bigger poll shellacking than they got in 2008 — were allegedly already working feverishly to steal next year’s elections.
Tsvangirai’s concerns emerged as the MDC president was concluding his tour of Mashonaland East, where he interacted with traditional leaders — who opened up to him on how they were being roped in by Zanu PF to become part of the apparatus to ensure victory for the ruling party in 2018.
Traditional chief after traditional chief had apparently told Tsvangirai during his tour of the restive Mashonaland East province, which is traditionally a Zanu PF stronghold, that they were being forced to not only join the ruling party, but to also lead its cells and wards — and to actively work to help rig next year’s polls. Daily News