Source: Concern over lack of access to electoral servers | The Financial Gazette October 5, 2017
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)’s position that stakeholders will not have access to servers for biometric voters’ registration (BVR) for security reasons has heightened fears of election rigging, The Financial Gazette can reveal.
This week ZEC chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau, told electoral stakeholders at a meeting in Harare that servers, which will have the central database plus the automated fingerprint identification software (AFIS), would not be accessible to political parties and other stakeholders for security reasons.
“One of the concerns that we came across is political parties that would want to have access to the servers where we are going to consolidate all the information that is going to come from the field, but because this is a security issue, they cannot be allowed access. Even personnel from ZEC will not be allowed access to the server,” she said.
She did not say who would be in control of these servers.
The opposition MDC-T party, which is led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai, wants all political players to have information on where the servers would be kept. The party also insists that political players should be allowed to inspect the servers to ensure that they are not pre-loaded with data that could interfere with the electoral process.
Veritas, a legal and legislative watchdog, highlighted in a recent commentary that ZEC needed to be more transparent in the way it conducts its operations.
“Although Section 7 of the Act enjoins ZEC to ‘promote … transparency in the performance of its functions’, ZEC’s conduct to date has been characterised by secrecy and obfuscation rather than openness,” Veritas said.
“ZEC has refused, for example, to disclose how it selected the operatives for its BVR machines, or what — if any — precautions it has taken to protect the BVR data against theft or hacking. The Act should be amended to oblige ZEC to exercise the utmost candour in regard to electoral processes at all stages, and to penalise ZEC’s members and officials who refuse to divulge information which the public has a right to know.”
It warned that there was possibility of Zimbabwe finding itself in the same situation as Kenya, where an election result was set aside because that country’s electoral commission did not reveal enough information about its processes.
The Supreme Court in Kenya last month nullified that country’s presidential elections after finding that data in BVR servers could have been manipulated.
The watchdog says the Electoral Act is vague as to the voters’ rolls that ZEC must keep.
“There should be clear distinctions between the national voters’ roll, constituency rolls, ward rolls and — for future elections — polling station rolls. Also the right of the public to inspect and make copies of voters’ rolls should be extended in the interests of transparency.”