30 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Gutu Says Younger Generation Discouraged From Registering to Vote

The voter registration exercise is still unnecessarily cumbersome and is discouraging the younger generation in the country to register as voters, the deputy Minister of Justice said on Friday.

Speaking on SW Radio Africa's Election Watch program, Senator Obert Gutu said there are still a lot of hurdles that people come across if they want to register, especially tenants in urban areas.

'One needs to have proof of residence to register and this depends on the benevolence of the landlord or landlady to help by supplying a copy of any utility bill. In the rural areas you need a letter from a Sabhuku (headman) and people feel discouraged being tossed from office to office

'An average person will end up giving up because of the amount of time spent trying to get the right papers,' Gutu said, adding that a much simpler way should be found to allow everyone who is qualified and eligible for the registration to do so without any hassles.

The Senator explained that these were some of the issues that were tackled during a two hour meeting between Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, the top hierarchy of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and several cabinet ministers.

'The Prime Minister wanted to hear it from the horse's mouth the state of the preparedness of ZEC to hold the referendum and the elections next year. This was an amicable and candid meeting where ZEC were able to explain some of their pitfalls as a result of lack of resources,' Gutu added.

He continued: 'They mentioned the state of the voters' roll, which is still shambolic and which they said would take up to 18 months to clean up.

ZEC admitted the voters' roll still contained a staggering number of individuals who are not supposed to be on the list. Gutu said this scenario poses a big threat to plans to hold clean and credible general elections next year.

'They painted a not-so-rosy picture of the voters' roll during the meeting,' Gutu said, amid reports it had an unusually high number of older voters between the ages of 65 to 100.

The registrar-general Tobaiwa Mudede has been accused of deliberately manipulating the roll in favour of President Robert Mugabe's regime.

However, Gutu said there is no evidence yet that the new independent ZEC will try to deliberately manipulate the figures to subvert the electoral process.

'It is crucial that ZEC cleans up the roll of dead voters if we are to have clean, free and fair elections. A clean voters' roll is the basis upon which we can have genuinely free and fair elections.

'On the other hand a defective roll can destabilise the electoral outcome and raises questions of legitimacy of the whole exercise,' the Senator explained.

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