BY TAFADZWA KACHIKO/ JAIROS SAUNYAMA
ELECTORAL watchdog, the Election Resource Centre says Zimbabwe’s total eligible voters should hover around eight million, meaning that nearly three million people are not interested to vote.
A graphic report produced by ERC this week revealed that opposition strongholds such as Harare and Bulawayo have the least number of potential voters registered to vote in the 2023 elections compared to rural constituencies.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), only 5 804 975 people are on the 2023 voters roll, a 2% increase from the 2018 figure of 5 695 706 registered voters.
Zec has promised to introduce more voter registration blitzes.
Infographics by the ERC showing the number of eligible voters against the population in each of the country’s 10 provinces have revealed that around 8 738 628 people are eligible to vote.
The province which has the highest number of eligible registered voters is Mashonaland East, with 72% (641 701) registered voters out of a population of eligible voters of 895 190. Manicaland, Mashonaland Central and Midlands follow at 70%.
Bulawayo has the lowest number of eligible citizens who registered to vote at 58% (270 914) out of an eligible voter population of 469 760, while Harare is at 65% (952 520) registered voters out of a population of eligible voters of 1 541 192.
Matabeleland South has 60% eligible registered voters, Matabeleland North 69%, Masvingo 66% and Mashonaland West 67%.
ERC programmes manager Solomon Bobosibunu said the methodology used was to look at the number of registrations released by Zec last week.
“We also looked into the ZimStat [Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency] population projections that say, for instance, Bulawayo province has an adult population of 469 760 and Zec says it registered only 270 914. That’s what we are projecting in that infographic,” Bobosibunu said.
Zimbabwe Democracy Institute director Pedzisayi Ruhanya said the opposition parties should aim to win with big margins in their urban strongholds like Harare, Bulawayo and in the Midlands provinces in order to close the losing gap in Zanu PF rural constituency strongholds such as Uzumba, Maramba and Pfungwe in order to win the 2023 presidential vote.
Ruhanya said during Zambia’s elections last year, United Party for National Development leader Hakainde Hichilema won with huge margins after encouraging people to register to vote.
“I was looking at the election outcome in Zambia. There were two outstanding things. Where the opposition won, it won with a huge margin and where it lost, it lost with a small margin. So if you look at the history of Harare, the opposition usually takes all parliamentary seats and during council elections they can take 44 out of 45 council seats.
“The presidential vote is about the actual number of the victory which matters. How Zanu PF wins in rural areas and how the opposition loses accounts for the presidential vote results. If you look at Harare during the previous election, Nelson Chamisa’s then MDC Alliance won with 500 000 votes, while (President Emmerson) Mnangagwa had around 200 000 votes. That margin is too small if you want to win a presidential election. For the opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) led by Chamisa to win the 2023 elections, its strongholds must win decisively, not just winning,” Ruhanya said.
CCC interim deputy spokesperson Gift “Ostallos” Siziba said his party’s focus was to win with a huge margin.
He, however, lamented the “deliberate voter suppression”.
“Our focus is to mobilise every voter in the country because we are determined to win resoundingly, either council, parliamentary or the presidential vote. But there is deliberate voter suppression and a lot of electoral malpractices. That’s why we are talking about reforms and a pre-electoral pact so that we resolve these issues ahead of the elections,” Siziba said.
Zanu PF director of information and publicity, Tafadzwa Mugwadi said: “There is nothing wrong with those figures. It’s given that for all intents and purposes, political parties formed to wrest power from the incumbent by their very nature are allowed to be optimistic, but the grassroots doesn’t work along wills, opinionated views or anticipations of individuals in their formations. It’s how the people react. They will always ultimately prevail and they have a tendency of prevailing through Zanu PF.”
Zanu PF Mashonaland East province has, meanwhile, set a new target to mobilise one million voters ahead of next year’s elections. For the whole country, the party is targeting five million voters.
Zanu PF Mashonaland East, famed for being the ruling party’s stronghold, was initially tasked to mobilise at least 800 000 of the party’s five million votes.
Addressing scores of party supporters at Waterloo Primary School in Murehwa South constituency at the weekend, provincial chairperson Daniel Garwe said they were now burning the midnight oil to mobilise more voters to register to reach the one million target.
“We need a massive voter registration exercise in this province. We now need one million votes to come from this area, and that is an upward target from what we were initially told,” Garwe said.
Zanu PF won 21 out of 23 constituencies in the province during the 2018 harmonised elections.
The province recently appointed a high-powered delegation led by politburo member David Parirenyatwa, which is moving in the districts mobilising people to register to vote.
The team is also assisting party members to get identity documents.
Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust official Ignatius Sadziwa said some potential voters failed to register because they did not have national identity cards, adding that they should be given the opportunity to register before the elections.
Meanwhile, Zec has slated the public inspection of the delimitation voters’ roll for July 17 to 26.