2 April 2017
HARARE – The aggressive door-to-door voter registration exercise Zanu PF
is conducting in several Harare suburbs bodes ill for the crucial general
elections set for next year.
Ominous signs on the ground, particularly the violence and intimidation
accompanying the ruling party’s voter registration process, point to a
potential escalation of political violence in the coming months.
Two weeks ago, MDC members were violently attacked by suspected Zanu PF
youths in the Harare suburbs of Highfield and Mbare, raising fears that
the political violence that blighted previous elections could confront us
as we head to the make-or-break polls.
What is particularly spooking residents is the fact that Zanu PF officials
are forcing people to provide national identity and phone numbers in their
parallel voter registration exercise.
Sadly, the mounting political violence extends beyond Harare. According to
peace-building and monitoring groups like Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) and
Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), the Zanu PF-inspired violence is steadily
engulfing many parts of the country where some traditional leaders are
threatening to withdraw food aid from suspected opposition supporters who
refuse to buy the ruling party’s membership cards. It is also alleged that
these traditional leaders are also threatening to evict these opposition
supporters from their villages.
Given that voter registration is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe
Electoral Commission (Zec), one would have expected the electoral body to
intervene decisively on this pertinent issue which will determine the
credibility of the 2018 general elections.
Voter registration is a critical component of any election and it is
important for Zec to show leadership on this matter. The electoral body
has to demonstrate that it has the capacity and willingness to register
all Zimbabweans in time for the elections.
It is not surprising that political parties are keen to influence the
voter registration process. In previous elections, potential voters faced
many impediments in their bid to get registered, particularly in urban
areas. The slowness and the unreliability of voter registration in
previous elections is one of the reasons why political parties are
determined to ensure their supporters are registered.
Hopefully, the biometric voters’ roll will make registration more
efficient. If the slow speed of previous voter registration exercises is
maintained, chances are not all Zimbabweans will be registered in time for
the elections. There are also genuine fears that starting the registration
exercise in May could result in many Zimbabweans failing to make it onto
the voters’ roll.
Given the above, Zec has an onerous responsibility to ensure the voter
registration exercise captures all potential voters on time. More
importantly, the electoral body must demonstrate that the exercise will
exude maximum transparency.