4 November 2017

Zimbabwe: Voters Given Rice Pledge for Numbers

The Zimbabwean government will award 300 tonnes of rice to the top 10 districts that mobilise the most people to register as voters ahead of next year's election.

"It is now a competition. Let us encourage people to register as voters," Justice Minister Happyton Bonyongwe told traditional leaders at the National Chiefs' Conference in Bulawayo last week.

"We want to see people registering to vote. Everyone should go out and register as a voter," Mr Bonyongwe said.

Low turnout is impeding the biometric voter listing exercise that kicked off on September 14. It is scheduled to end on January 15. This has forced the government to offer incentives to boost voter numbers.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), which has registered 1.2 million people of the targeted seven million, said it also deployed mobile registration kits to old people's homes, hospitals and institutions housing people with disabilities.

Observers say the commission is unlikely to reach its target due to the high presence of police at registration centres, which they say, is intimidating potential voters.

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network, a coalition of NGOs, said lack of voter education was also to blame.

The ZEC last week said it turned away about 30,000 people for providing wrong or defaced identification documents. Others were under age, it said.

Meanwhile, the group has also accused ruling party legislators of electoral malpractice for giving supporters pre-signed affidavits as proof of residence, one of the voter registration requirements.

It called on the electoral commission to investigate the violations.

Ahead of the 2018 election, opposition parties had been demanding a new roll for voters and have accused President Robert Mugabe's ruling Zanu-PF party of manipulating the existing register. Zanu-PF denies this.

The listing exercise is the first to be conducted by ZEC since Zimbabwe gained Independence in 1980. The commission had been using the voters' register from the Registrar-General's Office.

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