15 October 2017

Zimbabwe: 2018 Disaster Looms for Opposition As Supporters Shun BVR Process

THE MDC-T and its alliance partners' 2018 election hopes could be headed for disaster after supporters in stronghold Bulawayo and Matebeleland North provinces continue shunning the current Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process, it has emerged.

For those who have turned up, many are being turned away for failing to produce relevant documents, according to statistics released Friday by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

The statistics cover the period up to October 12 from the time the controversial process started September 14.

Only 2,707 prospective voters have successfully registered in Bulawayo province, with 416 turned away from a process set to end January 15 next year.

The situation is totally different with that of other provinces, more specifically, Masvingo - the highest so far - which has seen 19,702 turn up to register. No single voter, according to ZEC, was turned away.

Bulawayo has 1,017 district and provincial centres as well as 1,690 designated for the BVR blitz.

Masvingo, on the other hand, has 7,289 district and provincial centres as well as 12,413 blitz centres.

Matebeleland North, where the opposition also enjoys massive support, has seen 3,169 registering so far with 16 being turned away.

The country's opposition is keen to leverage its 2018 vote on the two provinces that have consistently rejected Zanu PF during past elections.

ZEC chair Rita Makarau continues to deny being part of an alleged Zanu PF attempt to disenfranchise opponents.

"We do not steal elections in favour of any party and no we do not intend to steal this particular election in favour of Zanu PF," Makarau said last month.

Meanwhile, other provinces have registered relative progress in the process with President Robert Mugabe's home province registering 6,275 while Harare has 15,449 registered so far. Only one person has been turned away.

Manicaland has registered 12,286 while turning away 276, Mashonaland Central 10,719 (92 turned away), Mashonaland East 13,339 (14 turned away), Matebeleland South 7,570 (3 turned away) while Midlands has registered 13,000 with 137 since turned away.

MDC-T MP for Bulawayo East Thabitha Khumalo said, "I have toured most of the registration centres in the city and the attendance is not pleasing. Potential and eligible voters whom I have interacted with so far in public places such as beer halls and streets have all cited the proof of residence requirement as an obstacle for them," said Khumalo.

Khumalo said the most affected were youths and lodgers since they do not own residential properties.

"During my interaction, the youths and vendors pointed out that the majority of them are lodgers and their landlords are reluctant to write them proof of residence letters for various reasons. Some of the landlords are political competitors of the lodgers and therefore they do not want them to participate in the voting process. This is a serious issue which ZEC should address as a matter of urgency," said the MDC-T deputy spokesperson.

About 75% of Zimbabwe's population are lodgers.

Khumalo said by demanding proof of residence, ZEC is in violation of section 67 of the constitution which clearly stipulates the right of every Zimbabwean to vote without any discrimination.

"The Electoral Act can require citizens to provide proof of residence, but this should be in a manner that does that does not infringe on section 67," she said.

Khumalo said the MDC-T has mobilised all its councillors and MPs so that they can assist all eligible voters in their areas by stamping and signing their affidavits.

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