Zimbabwe News and Internet Radio

‘Mooted electronic voter register is illegal’

By Farayi Machamire

Attempts by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to introduce an electronic register of voters is illegal, analysts have said, with Zec urged to drop the plans even after acquiring the technology, raising fresh fears of election fraud.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson Justice Rita Makarau, flanked by her deputy Mr Emmanuel Magade and Chief Elections Officer Ms Constance Chigwamba, during a meeting with political parties. —(Picture by John Manzongo)

Presidential and parliamentary elections in 2018 follow a disputed poll in 2013, and will also be the second since Zimbabwe adopted a new Constitution.

Zec has acquired biometric voter registration (BVR) technology to replace a manual system that was discredited in 2013 when ballot boxes were found to contain the votes of people who had not registered or were dead.

But Zec has refused to abandon the BVR plan, even after the tendering process descended into acrimony.

Pro-democracy campaigner and advocate Fadzayi Mahere told a Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition dialogue on Thursday night that BVR as it stands right now was illegal.

“Read Section 36 A of the Electoral Act. Until the president proclaims you can go ahead and start the creation of new voters’ roll, it’s unlawful.

“You don’t want a situation where you run around only to be told in the end that actually we are going back to the (Registrar General Tobaiwa) Mudede (voters’) roll because everything that was happening is illegal. I am telling you in advance so that you can act on it.

“Another thing, Section 36 A actually envisages a situation where there are two voters’ rolls. So even when the president makes that pronouncement, you can still have sitting next to it, the 2013 voters’ roll…

“Please run to your lawyers and take advice on it.”

Efforts to obtain comment from Zec chairperson Rita Makarau were futile yesterday.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said there was no political will to iron out all sticking issues to do with the implementation of BVR.

“We must not get drunk on the issue of BVR without scrutinising the process in its entirety,” Chimhini said.

This comes as Zec has not clarified how voters’ data is going to be stored ahead of the 2018 general elections, raising fears of an alternative company being roped in to provide the central system.

Laxton Group, which won the tender to supply BVR kits, has also raised concern over the issue.

“When you look at the specifications drafted originally by UNDP, they focused on the kits that will be used to capture data in the field,” Chimhini said.

“We must also look at the supporting element… access to where all this data will be deployed.”

Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe (RDZ) leader Elton Mangoma has called for the abandonment of the BVR process, calling for the use of national identity cards to vote.

“The only way out is the simple and manageable ‘munhu-nechitupa-chake formula’ considering the time left before next year’s elections,” RDZ said in a statement.

“There are over a million people who are not registered and there will also be need to verify the results. Therefore, munhu-nechitupa-chake is the way to go.”

But director for elections in the Morgan Tsvangirai-led MDC, Murisi Zwizwai said the issue of voting with IDs is a difficult proposition.

“They say, ‘if you don’t know it, you can’t control it, and if you can’t control it, you can’t measure it.’

“You will be told two million people voted in Uzumba Maramba Pfungwe and how do you contest that? You can’t audit it,” Zwizwai said

Apart from getting their supporters to register to vote, the MDC said it was seized with the destruction of the rural fear factor.

“The debate of Zanu PF being strong in the rural areas, we feel the opposite is true but Zanu PF thrives on harvest of fear,” Zwizwai said.

“There is no political party that will brutalise its people if its people love it. If you look at the amount of violence perpetrated in Zimbabwe from 2000 to today, most of it is in rural areas. So we have a lot of supporters out there.

“We will make sure we have polling agents in each corner of the polling station.

“We are going to establish peace ambassadors who are going to defend the vote. We are going to announce the results from whereever we will be. We are going to remain vigilant together with Zimbabweans because we can’t leave it all up to Tsvangirai.”

Zanu PF officials invited to the dialogue did not turn up. Daily News