24 April 2014

Mozambique: Voter Registration Made Compulsory in One District

Photo: Guy Oliver/IRIN
Election posters in the Sofala province town of Gorongosa.

Maputo — The District Elections Commission (CDE) in Morrumbala, in the central Mozambican province of Zambezia, has attempted to make it obligatory for citizens to carry a voter card, reports Thursday's issue of the independent newsheet “Mediafax”.

Voter registration is generally regarded as a civic duty, but it is not a legal obligation. There is no Mozambican law which obliges citizens to vote, or to register as voters.

Yet the Morrumbala CDE, in a decision of 16 April, reproduced on the front page of “Mediafax” has attempted to turn possession of the voter card issued on registration into a requirement for accessing basic state services.

The CDE decision is addressed to all state bodies in Morrumbala. It says that the heads of all state departments must demand that their subordinates show their voter card. Teachers must demand to see a valid voter card from all students of voting age (18 and above) at the start of each lesson. The local branch of the electricity company, EDM, must demand to see a voter card when its clients pay their electricity bills.

Much worse, sick people may be denied medical treatment if they have not registered as voters. The CDE decision instructs nurses to demand a voter card before admitting patients for appointments in health units. The police are also instructed to require to see a voter card from the people they stop during their routine patrols.

When “Mediafax” spoke to the director of the Morrumbala CDE, Laitone Magalasse, he admitted that he had signed and issued the document, in order to ensure that more people in the district register as voters. He refused to comment on the clear illegality of the CDE decision.

For the CDE has no power whatever over other public institutions. It is not entitled to give instructions to the police, schools, health units, or public companies.

Asked by AIM about this flagrant illegality at a Maputo press conference on Thursday, the spokesperson of the National Elections Commission (CNE), Paulo Cuinica, said this was the first he had heard of it.

This is an admission that the man in charge of CNE public relations does not bother to read the daily press. Founded by the late Carlos Cardoso, “Mediafax” is not an obscure publication - it is the oldest and most credible of the Mozambican private media.

Cuinica promised that the CNE would look into the matter. He stressed that the only purpose of a voter card is to identify voters at polling stations. It cannot be demanded for any other reason.

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