The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: 'Voters' Roll Did Not Cost Anyone Election'- Mudede

interview

THE Harmonised elections have been held and delivered an emphatic victory to President Mugabe and Zanu-PF. The vanquished MDC-T has been crying foul claiming the Voters Roll was manipulated. Our Senior Reporter Fortious Nhambura (FN) caught with the Registrar General of Voters Mr Tobaiwa Mudede (TM) to talk about this and other issues.

Mr Mudede, there are allegations that the voters roll has been manipulated to ensure that Zanu-PF would win the elections. What is your response?

There is no manipulation at all. I have been running the elections in this country for a long time before the coming of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. In the past the opposition parties went out with a number of seats and when they won they never said anything about that. You know very well that I was responsible for the voters' roll, both compiling everything and printing for the 2000 and 2008 elections.

Why was I not accused of manipulation or anybody accused of manipulation. All over the world when people lose they make all sorts of allegations even in the United States and Britain. I have been an observer under the United Nations and that's what you get everywhere. That is why I am not worried, I work innocently and undisturbed because I know this game.

If you are aware we had members of the civic society (NGOs) going around doing an illegal parallel voter registration and giving out certificates to be used in the election. I initiated their prosecution and as I speak the case is pending in the courts. So who is manipulating the voters roll?

Why were copies of the voters' roll not released within a reasonable time of the elections?

It was because of time. We were operating within one month. We were required to capture the data of those who registered and then went into printing of the voters' roll within that short space of time. The machine was working at the highest level and problems developed so we delayed.

However, we managed to produce copies well before the elections. Other parties came to collect the voters roll; others said they wanted an electronic version of the voters' roll. We told MDC-T then we were unable to do that but they could not accept. They were unwilling to accept what we were offering.

So it is not true that the voters' roll was not made available to parties. After the High Court ruling they only sent their people around 4pm on the day of elections demanding that we give the national voters' roll and we obliged. We thought we had to comply with the court's ruling and we gave them the copies of all the wards in the country, all the 1 958 rolls. We never asked what they wanted to do with the volumes. But why come at 4pm?

What was the role of the Israeli company, Nikuv in the making of the voter roll? There were allegations that you were not in control of the voters' roll for this election?

The Registrar General is in total control of the voters' roll. Ask those who have come to see our premises. They have seen our machinery and equipment. What I want to assure you is that I am in total control of the situation. In fact I may invite you to see what we have. These people did not come to us to ask for the original voters' roll. The pieces they are circulating are not part of our voters' roll.

Can the public access the voters' roll upon request? Why is it very expensive?

Anyone can access it but for a fee that if they are not contesting in the elections. If one is contesting or it is for the purpose of the elections then they get it for free. The law says only candidates or political parties entered accepted by the nomination court can get access for free. It cost only US$15 per ward. Only the national roll, for all the 1 958 wards costs US$30 000.

The MDC-T says there are ghost voters on the voters' roll. What is your response?

I don't know what a ghost voter is, if there is anything like that because that person is dead. We are talking about a dead person that does not vote anywhere. In this country we have moved quite a lot on that. In 2010, we had an outreach programme, and went right down to the villages to capture and register people who are deceased having relatives to complete notices of death, even if they did not remember the date.

We did that countrywide through headmen.

We managed to capture a large number and removed them from the voters' roll. Take that number and those we have been removing on a daily basis since 1985, they are over a million. We feel we have done a lot on this one. We cannot claim the position is now perfect, but we have done our level best to remove these dead people.

When we issue out death registration certificates or burial orders our computer knocks the person completely from the voter's roll.

That person cannot come to vote, he is already dead and cannot be retrieved to vote. Our system is daily registration and any one registered as dead will be removed from the voters roll electronically.

There are also allegations by the MDC-T and other parties that Zanu-PF supporters were being registered until two days before elections. Could you please clarify on that?

There is nothing like that because the voters' roll was closed on July 10, 2013. It's a legal requirement and once the voters roll is closed no one can come in. People will continue to come and register anyway. It's not Zanu-PF, anyone can come and register but those people will not be entered for the election. Anybody registered on July 11 will not be registered in the voters' roll.

Some political parties said the number of people turned away during the elections was too high, and that your office did not do a good job, how would you respond?

We registered a large number of people and certainly that position does not stand as far as we are concerned. We are satisfied with the number that we registered. In this country people register voluntarily, they are not forced to register. A person who is of the age of majority comes to register at his or her own will.

There is no law that says you must be registered to be a voter. So it's very difficult for anybody to think that so many people have been turned away because they did not come. They may not appear in the voters' roll because they did not register. Secondly some of these people do not qualify.

Naturally by law some of them may not be citizens and will be told to go away if they come and thirdly some people went to wrong wards. You must go to respective wards so if you go to the wrong ward, your name will not be there. The officers on the ground will tell you where your ward is.

The system is quite intact as far as we are concerned. Let's wait to see the number of people that has voted. That number can be best compared with other previous elections. Other unregistered voters may just join other voters for the sake of being seen at a polling station knowing well that they will not find their names in the voters' roll.

So the numbers of people who are turned away has nothing to do with the condition of the voters' roll.

How did people respond after you made the call for them to inspect the voters' roll?

The response was quite high although people did not only come for that. Some were registering afresh and some inspecting the voter's roll. Quite many people inspected the voters' roll.

For the clarity, how many people are on the voters' roll used for the harmonised elections?

There are 6 435 615 people who registered.

There are suggestions that the RG's office should hand over the voters' roll to ZEC. How do you respond? TM: This system is integrated. The birth certificate is issued here. When someone dies, we also register and the ID and passport, citizenship is done and checked here. If ZEC is to pull off -- that aspect of supervising has come to an end. How are they going to operate since they will not be able to do anything on their own?

The system at the moment is very good, that is why even the AU was satisfied. We are also doing delimitation of the country. If they take over the voter's roll they will then have to take up all those tasks. We are efficient. It could have been impossible for this election to take place because of screws that were put in the new Constitution; we worked 24/7 to beat the deadline.

We knew there were efforts to delay the elections but we did not want to be the scapegoat.

But Mr Mudede, are you insisting on retaining custody of the voters' roll?

Who worries about the voters roll? If the Government sees it fit to remove voter registration from us, who are we to fight that? If the issue is to be debated -- might need a number of senior people in Government to come and see this system and think if it's necessary for the component to go. The component of the voters' roll has been drummed so much as if it is the one that made someone lose the elections.

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