Proof of residency requirements relaxed
By Nomalanga Moyo
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced Friday that it had suspended voter registration requirements for those without documentary proof of residency, less than a week before the campaign winds down.
The voter registration programme, which has been beset with financial and logistical difficulties, kicked off on May 3rd and is expected to end on the 19th.
Since the exercise started there has been an outcry, particularly from Zimbabweans in the rural areas and those in urban areas who do not own a residential home, because they were being turned away from registration centres for failing to prove their residence status.
Addressing political parties on Friday, ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said following discussions with political and other interested parties ZEC had agreed to relax the stringent requirements so that those without proof of residence documents would just fill in an affidavit form.
She said the affidavit will be available at registration centres with immediate effect, as an additional document to prove residence: “The affidavit is the fall-back position for all applicants and, therefore, no citizen should be turned away for want of documentation. The affidavit will be gazetted soon, to form part of the law.”
According to the state-run Herald newspaper, the affidavit form was agreed upon by ZEC and the Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede, who was also part of the meeting.
Welcoming the waiver, MDC-T organising secretary Nelson Chamisa, who attended the Friday meeting, said the decision should make it “easier for all individuals who want to register to be able to do so”.
However, he said that the MDC-T was also aware that gazetting the affidavit into law was one thing, making it operational was another.
“That remains our area of discomfort and dissatisfaction because we feel that there is no attention being paid to the spirit of the law by the Registrar-General to move with speed to implement that which we have agreed upon.
“That is an issue we are raising with the ZEC, RG’s office, the Ministry of Home Affairs, as well as the Justice Ministry that deals with the issue in question, Chamisa said.
Questions remain as to how the information about the relaxation of the proof of residency will reach mobile teams and also how the affidavit forms will be delivered to the registration points. We could not establish Monday whether the affidavits had been delivered to all registration points.
Chamisa indicated to SW Radio Africa that while they were concerned about the matter, they could only rely on the RG’s office to ensure that every Zimbabwean was afforded their democratic right of ‘one-man one-vote’.
SW Radio Africa listeners have been complaining about the lack of publicity regarding the registration teams and how many people have failed to register, as they were not aware of the full list of requirements.
Speaking on Monday’s Callback programme Sipambi, from Masvingo, said his brother was last week turned away after failing to produce a letter from the headman and, by the time he returned with the letter the team, which was stationed 7km away from his Ward, had moved away.
Responding to these concerns Minister Chamisa, who reportedly raised concern at the Friday meeting over the skewed distribution of voter registration centres, added that the principle of mobile registration teams “was to have the officials going closer to the people, ward by ward, rather than the current situation where teams are skipping a lot of wards.”
Chamisa said given the concerns, it was necessary for ZEC to extend the voter registration exercise. Last week, Makarau told a press conference that ZEC was monitoring the situation and would consider an extension if necessary.
On Friday, Makarau said ZEC envisaged another 30-day registration period will come into effect as part of the new Constitution.
So far about 37,000 new people have registered to vote, 13,345 transferred their names to other constituencies, and 55,654 obtained national identity documents. SW Radio Africa