22 May 2013

Southern Africa: Civil Society Condemns Mobile Voter Registration

press release

Fifty civil society organisations have issued a stinging condemnation of the recently-completed mobile voter registration exercise in Zimbabwe - highlighting a host of serious problems and concluding that it has to be re-started since it comprehensively failed to reach all prospective registrants.

In a joint statement, the civil society groups lists some key concerns about the process that ran from 29 April to 19 May, including inadequate education and information on the process; insufficient access; lack of professionalism; inadequate human resources; inconsistencies in the process and services offered; and a lack of accountability in relation to the funding.

The organisations argue that the lack of information and heavy-handed response to some attempts to mobilise citizens meant that potential voters were "largely ignorant of the dates, centre and the requirements for registration."

The location of the centres meant that many communities had no service or citizens were forced to travel long distance to register.

Even more worryingly, there was no "consideration for the special needs of groups such as women, youths, the elderly, the infirm, workers and people living with disabilities resulting in the disenfranchisement of a significant number in these key sectors."

In addition, there was a lack of professionalism, consistency and staff at the centres, which created a range of problems - from centres not adhering to stipulated opening times, to long slow-moving queues, to people being told to come back the next day only to find the mobile unit had moved on, to prospective registrants being turned away at some centres for being 'aliens' or for using an affidavit as proof of residence but being accepted at others.

Considering these - and numerous other criticisms - the groups agreed upon a list of critical recommendations, including:

The process must be re-started in line with the new constitution, which stipulates a thirty day period for registration after its enactment;

It must be a comprehensive and inclusive process with adequate financial and well trained human resources, and it must be effectively decentralized to the ward level in each constituency with adequate time allocated to each centre in proportion to the population density in the community;

Legal instruments regarding the issue of 'aliens' and the use of affidavits as proof of residence that were put in place recently should be well publicised;

Stakeholders should have unfettered access to the process, particularly civil society organisations that are legitimately mobilising citizens to participate in the process; and

There must be effective supervision of the Registrar General's office by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to safeguard the integrity of the process for which the ZEC is ultimately accountable.

The following organisations endorsed this statement:

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN); Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition (CiZC); Election Resource Centre (ERC); Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum; Women of Zimbabwe Arise (WOZA); National Association of Non-Governmental Organisations (NANGO); Association of Women's Clubs (AWC); Bulawayo Agenda (BA); Catholic Commission for Justice And Peace (CCJP); Civic Education Network Trust (CIVNET); Combined Harare Residents Association (CHRA); Counselling Services Unit (CSU); Evangelical Fellowships of Zimbabwe (EFZ); Federation of African Media Women (FAMWZ); Legal Resources Foundation (LRF); Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA); Media Monitoring Project (MMPZ); National Constitutional Assembly (NCA); National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH); Organisation for Rural Association for Progress (ORAP); Progressive Teachers Union of Zimbabwe (PTUZ); Rooftop Promotions; Transparency International Zimbabwe (TIZ); Women's Action Group (WAG); The Women's Trust; Zimbabwe Association for Crime Prevention and Rehabilitation of the Offender (ZACRO); Zimbabwe Civic Education Trust (ZIMCET); Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions (ZCTU); Zimbabwe Council of Churches (ZCC); Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights); Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR); Zimbabwe National Students Union (ZINASU); Zimbabwe Students Christian Movement (SCMZ); Zimbabwe Union of Journalists (ZUJ); Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP); Zimbabwe Women Lawyers Association (ZWLA); The Women's Coalition of Zimbabwe (WCoZ); Shalom Project; Centre for Community Development Trust (CCDZ); Media Centre; Youth Empowerment and Transformation Trust (YETT); Youth Forum; Zimbabwe Democracy Institute (ZDI); Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD); Build a Better Youth Zimbabwe; Zimbabwe Poets for Human Rights; Zimbabwe Organisation for the Youth in Politics (ZOYP); Youth in Development and Empowerment Zimbabwe (YiDEZ); Radio Dialogue; Matabeleland Constitution Reform Agenda (MACRA).

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