Zec must get it right this time

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will be embarking on another 30-day voter registration exercise next week and there is an urgent need for authorities to ensure that the shortcomings that discredited the initial process do not recur.

Southern Eye Comment

Zec admitted that the mobile voter registration exercise early this month was a disaster because of lack of publicity and poor deployment of teams.

There was an overwhelming number of people who wanted to register as first-time voters and those who wanted to transfer to other constituencies, but the majority of them were left disappointed because the registration teams were not able to cover all parts of the country since they were few.

Other aspiring voters failed to register because they did not have proper identity documents or proof of residence.

The Registrar-General (RG)’s Office ignored a Cabinet directive to drop the requirement for people to produce proof of residence for them to register as voters. Following the adoption of the new Constitution, which gives all Zimbabweans — including those that were disenfranchised on the grounds that they were aliens — the right to vote, the latest round of voter registration is likely to attract more people.

It is encouraging that Zec has assured the potential voters that all the country’s 1 958 wards will be covered and there will be no need for people to travel long distances to register.

Besides increasing its reach, Zec must ensure that the exercise is well publicised. However, of more concern is the targeting by the police of non-governmental orgnisations involved in civic education.

Yesterday we reported that police in Hwange had raided offices of the Legal Resources Foundation, a member of the Zimbabwe Election Supervisory Network (Zesn), and confisticated education material.

The material taken away included hundreds of Zesn posters and flyers meant for distribution in the province to encourage Zimbabweans to register to vote in the watershed elections.

Zesn noted that the continued arrest and criminalisation of civic society organisations for allegedly conducting voter education without seeking permission from Zec is disturbing and we cannot agree more.

It is such uncalled for behaviour by overzealous police officers that will taint the process.

The credibility of the forthcoming election will be determined by processes such as the voter registration exercise and a clean voters’ roll.

Zec does not have the capacity to adequately publicise the registration exercise and the authorities must be grateful that there are local organisations that are ready to complement the commission.

A repeat of the chaos that characterised the first voter registration exercise will not be acceptable and we are hopeful Zec and the RG’s Office have learnt their lessons.

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