Maputo — The latest statistics from Mozambique's Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE) on voter registration ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October show that, as of Sunday, less than 80 per cent of the estimated potential electorate had registered.
The latest figures are dated 13 May, and the registration ends on 17 May. It would seem an impossible task to register the remaining 20 per cent in just four days.
The target figure has once again shrunk. At the start of registration, on 19 March, it was about 8.5 million. Then it fell to just over eight million, then to 7.8 million, and is now down to 7,599,200.
STAE spokesperson Claudio Langa told AIM on Wednesday that these changes have nothing to do with STAE, but come from the National Statistics Institute (INE), which is still working on the raw data from the last population census, held in August 2017, to estimate the population of voting age in each of the 53 districts that contains a municipality.
Langa said the latest changes from the INE reduce the target figure in some districts, but increase it in others. The overall result, however, is to lop almost 220,000 from the target. By Sunday the total registration was 6,078,011 - or 79.98 per cent of the new target.
The highest result comes from Gaza province in the south, where the STAE brigades have managed to register 102.84 per cent of the target. Within Gaza, the municipality of Chibuto registered 105.92 per cent of its target, the provincial capital, Xai-Xai 114.38 per cent, and the city of Chokwe an astonishing 125.78 per cent. Questions will certainly be asked as to whether the INE could really have made such a serious underestimate.
The northern province of Cabo Delgado has hit 98.41 per cent of its target, and four of its five municipal districts have gone to over 100 per cent.
Inhambane province in the south has reached 90.93 per cent, and one of its municipalities, Vilankulo, managed to register 122.17 per cent of the target.
At the other end of the scale, the northern province of Niassa is still lagging badly, on 62.65 per cent. The worst performance of all comes from the Niassa district of Mandimba, which has only registered 38.51per cent of its target.
Maputo city and province have also performed badly reaching only 65.6 and 68.48 per cent of their targets respectively
In the heart of Maputo is the urban district of KaMpfumo, which is the richest and most literate part of the country - and it has done spectacularly badly, with only 52.35 per cent of its estimated electorate registering by Sunday.
Predictably, there is now a last minute rush to the registration posts in Maputo, with long queues forming outside many of them.
At a Wednesday press conference, the chairperson of the Maputo City Elections Commission, Ana Tchemana, said the registration rate had now reached 69.91 per cent - 557,168 people had registered out of an estimated electorate of 796,965. On Tuesday, she added, about 20,000 people had registered in the city.
"A lot of people are coming to register now", she said. "To deal with this, we've been putting extra equipment in the registration posts with the longest queues".
But KaMpfumo, where nobody lives more than five minutes walk away from a registration post, is way behind the rest of the city, and has still only managed to register 58 per cent of its target.
Tchemana said that, in these last few days, the Maputo registration posts will stay open as long as necessary.
"We open at 07.00 and we ought to close at 17.00", she said. "But we've been staying open until we've registered the last person in the queue".