5 February 2018

Zimbabwe: Concern As Churches Bar Members From Voting

Photo: The Herald
Biometric Voter Registration equipment.

Civil Society Organisations (CSO's) have expressed great concern over some churches that are barring their members to register to vote, citing religious beliefs.

Addressing journalists at the Bulawayo media centre on Monday, the civil society representatives cited Jehovah's Witness as one of the churches that are discouraging its members from registering to vote.

"The Jehovah's Witness issue is very unique in that globally they have a doctrine of not being involved in governance issues. Unfortunately, the population of Jehovah Witness members in Zimbabwe is quite huge.

"We are talking of over 250 000 people who if they listen to the church, they will not be able to vote," said Reverend Huseni Sibanda, Zimbabwe Christian Alliance director.

Reverend Sibanda said the CSOs are currently seized with the issue with a view to exploring legal avenues since voting is a constitutional right for every Zimbabwean.

"It is a constitutional issue that we are really pondering on what to do because every Zimbabwean should have a right to vote. We have managed to engage with the leadership of the churches that have had similar doctrines but are not very rigid.

We have convinced them on the need for Christians to be responsible citizens that could register to vote and we hope that as we do these campaigns, we are beginning to show them that some of the biblical texts that they use are being

misinterpreted and try to re interpret them," said Reverend Sibanda.

The CSOs said while they welcomed the significant increase in voter registration figures during the mop up exercise which has seen over 260 000 new registrants, they hoped the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) would urgently address administrative, environmental and legislative issues surrounding the process.

"While the mop-up exercise was meant to increase access by citizens particularly former aliens, over 6 000 'aliens' have so far been turned away on the basis of failing to submit long birth certificates.

Access to documentation such as birth certificates and National Identity Documents necessary for voter registration, remains limited to citizens. ZEC's operational plan for the 2018 harmonised elections also remains outstanding," said Samkheliso Khumalo, Women Institute in Leadership Development (WILD) director.

The press briefing which was meant to update the media on the current voter registration exercise which ends on Thursday was also attended by representatives from Election Resources Centre (ERC), Heal Zimbabwe

Trust (HZT) and National Youth for Development Trust (NYDT).


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