TWO issues on the ongoing voter registration exercise came to the fore this week — the need for the immediate appointment of Justice Rita Makarau’s successor as the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) chief and the need to extend the biometric voter registration period.
The second issue is the more straightforward one, as calls for the extension of the period make sense, as many people might not be registered by the deadline in six days’ time, where it’s no fault of their own.
Just recently, people called “aliens” won a landmark court judgment that allowed them to register as voters after they were inexplicably denied the right to vote.
The judgment came after some voter registration phases had been concluded and it makes perfect sense for this to be revisited to allow as many people as possible to register.
Importantly too is that the dates for voter registration that were gazetted run up to January 15 and, therefore, there will be no harm in ensuring that prospective voters can register up to that day.
The second issue is more complicated and needs a careful, but urgent approach nonetheless.
Justice Makarau’s departure is still shrouded in mystery, heightening the need for the government to appoint someone who has the confidence of the all the parties contesting the elections.
Justice Makarau had her faults, but she had a modicum of respect from both the ruling and opposition parties, meaning whoever replaces her has big shoes to fill.
It might seem unimportant, but the credibility of the next poll very much hinges on who is running the elections.
If it is someone of questionable repute, losing candidates may question the results and this will further entrench Zimbabwe’s isolation from the rest of the world.
There is a lot riding on the next election and how it is held will be a pointer to the globe on whether Zimbabwe has adopted reforms or whether it chooses to remain on the fringes as a pariah State.
Thus, the appointment of the new Zec chairperson has to be a carefully thought out process, transparent and satisfies everyone who is running in the next elections.
This has to be done urgently, as the election cycle has already begun and Zec should not be allowed to run a day longer without a substantive head.
How the authorities handle the appointment of the Zec chairperson will be a harbinger of next year’s elections and will show if this new administration is in any way different from the old.