29 April 2013

Zimbabwe: Voter Registration Exercise Begins Amid Claims of Fraud

Photo: IRIN
Presidential elections are still expected this year (file photo).

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has officially launched a nationwide voter registration campaign, for elections due to be held this year.

But the exercise has been overshadowed by reports of irregularities on a massive scale. The MDC-T said they've noted with great concern fraudulent activities in the days leading to the launch of the campaign.

Party spokesman Douglas Mwonzora told journalists in Harare on Monday that in some constituencies the voters roll has ballooned by as many as 10,000 in 48 hours, meaning that the Registrar-General's officers are registering about 153 voters a second.

'This is just impossible. In ward 42 of Hatcliffe (Harare North), a constituency held by (Theresa) Makone, on Monday 15th April the roll had a mere 5,196 voters, but by Wednesday 17th April it had 17,068. A difference of 11,890 more voters in 48 hours,' Mwonzora said.

The Nyanga North MP said an initial inspection of the roll in many other constituencies revealed that in some instances names of voters are missing, while others have their names misspelt.

'This is something that can prevent people from voting because it is very difficult to pick up the mistakes,' he said.

The voters' roll is also currently riddled with names of dead people, some of whom died decades ago. There have been calls for ZEC to overhaul the electoral roll as the nation prepares for polls that could end the political stalemate.

An editorial in the Zimbabwe Standard newspaper suggested that a starting point would be to independently audit and flush out ghost voters.

'A chaotic registration system which has allowed duplicate entries and voters to be enrolled in wrong constituencies should also be done away with. These problems need to be sorted out first, since a credible voters' roll is a critical element of a free and fair election,' the paper said on Sunday.

The 20-day process began as the three parties to the GPA are still to agree on an election date, though analysts believe the poll might be held at the end of July or end of September.

The month of August has been ruled out due to the United Nations World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) summit, to be jointly hosted by Zimbabwe and Zambia in Victoria Falls. The annual Harare Agriculture Show is also to be held at the end August.

Voter registration was due to begin in early January, but failed to take off after the Ministry of Finance failed to give funds to ZEC for the campaign. However government last week dished out $8 million for the exercise.

With memories of the botched disputed 2008 election still fresh, ZEC is approaching the voter registration with the knowledge that a botched voter registration process could have negative consequences for the credibility of the coming election.

Mwonzora said the registration exercise will be a test for an electoral body still struggling to demonstrate integrity and competence, having used a discredited voters' roll in the past.

In just a month ZEC must put in place a system that will capture and store voter information for millions of people while at the same time making sure that the register is secure and without errors.

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