By Fungi Kwaramba
Government’s announcement that it is phasing out metal identity cards (IDs) has caused panic among civic society and the opposition movement as they fear this could displace millions of voters ahead of next year’s eagerly-awaited elections.
This comes as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is at the cusp of opening the biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise for prospective voters for the crucial 2018 polls.
On Tuesday, Registrar-General (RG) Tobaiwa Mudede announced he will roll out a three-month national mobile registration exercise in which he would be issuing plastic IDs as replacements for the long standing metals cards.
Yesterday, civic society and the opposition parties suspected that the move could disenfranchise voters and aid Zanu PF in the make-or-break elections.
“The requirement for replacement of metal IDs should have been made known and the service made available to the electorate much earlier. Furthermore, information availed by the RG’s office as reported is vague as to what additional requirements one need in order to get the replacement of the IDs.
Civic group Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) yesterday challenged Mudede to give adequate information on the new development.
“Zesn calls for more comprehensive information specifying whether the replacements of the IDs will be made at a cost as well as other key information on the operational schedule for the exercise.
“Furthermore, Zesn requests the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to provide information to the public on its position regarding these developments about ‘aliens’ and the use of metal IDs given that they have a direct impact on the voter registration process, which the commission is about to embark on in a few weeks’ time,” said Zesn.
The country’s largest opposition party, the MDC, said Zec should ensure that all eligible voters were allowed to vote following announcement of the phasing out of metals IDs.
“It is a notorious fact that Tobaiwa Mudede has previously been linked with allegations of aiding and abetting the Zanu PF regime’s vote rigging shenanigans. Perhaps rightly so, Zimbabweans somehow believe that there could be a sinister motive behind the registrar-general’s planned move to roll out the national mobile registration exercise at this juncture.
“The MDC sincerely hopes that this three-month mobile registration exercise shall be equitably distributed throughout the country’s urban, rural, peri-urban and commercial farming areas. On numerous occasions, Zimbabweans, particularly those who live in urban areas, have complained about the long delays in queues for voter registration, which state of affairs has unfortunately contributed to voter apathy in these areas,” said MDC spokesperson Obert Gutu.
“The planned national mobile registration exercise should, thus, be designed in such a manner that no eligible person would fail to obtain the new machine-readable national ID.
“Millions of Zimbabweans, in both rural and urban areas, are still holding onto their metal national IDs and it is, therefore, incumbent upon the Office of the Registrar–General, to make sure that this exercise is efficiently and effectively rolled out countrywide,” he added.
In a statement yesterday Zec said they will only register a person who would have satisfied Mudede’s requirements and with proof of residence or an affidavit signed by a commissioner of oaths.
“In terms of the Constitution of Zimbabwe, aliens do not qualify for registration. One has to be a citizen who is 18 years and above to be registered as a voter. Zec is calling upon all those who are eligible for citizenship status before the registration exercise commences.
“Zec will not, during the biometric voter registration exercise, register any person whose citizenship is not confirmed by the national ID or other identity document lawfully issued by the registrar-general. Zec cannot grant or deny citizenship. Zec can only register adult citizens as confirmed by the registrar,” said the commission’s chief elections’ officer, Constance Chigwamba.
Mudede has said his office is phasing out the metal IDs because they are not compatible with the biometric voter registration (BVR) which Zec will use to register voters for next year’s elections.
However, political analysts are sceptical of Mudede and argue that his involvement in the previously hotly disputed polls makes him unsuitable to preside over matters that relate to elections.
“This new regulation on metal IDs brings back and puts Tobaiwa Mudede’s Registry Office at the centre of election processes through the issuance of plastic IDs when Mudede’s partisan support of Zanu PF is well-documented.
“With the banning of metal IDs it is now clear that the elections rigging machinery has set in motion the process of disenfranchising possibly millions of Zimbabweans while ensuring that supporters of one party have an easy process of acquiring plastic IDs.
“Mudede must never be anywhere near electoral processes if the credibility and integrity of the process is to be maintained,” said Human rights lawyer Dewa Mavhinga. Daily News