BY CATHERINE MUCHIRI/PRIVILEGE GUMBODETE
THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has admitted that the available voter registration centres are not adequate and inaccessible to aspiring first-time voters.
The admission comes after Zec commissioner Jasper Mangwana on Tuesday disclosed that the commission only registered a paltry 2 000 first-time voters the whole of this year.
Zec commissioner Joyce Kazembe told NewsDay in an emailed response that the electoral body plans to add 73 new voter registration centres and embark on a countrywide voter registration blitz early next year targeting mainly the youth.
“It is true that the current registration centres located at the 63 Zec districts and 10 provincial offices centres are inadequate and, for some, are located quite far from their residential locations,” Kazembe said.
Civic society groups have been lobbying the electoral body to decentralise its services to the wards for easy access.
Kazembe added: “Zec is planning to conduct a voter registration blitz during the first quarter of 2022 across the whole country whereby 900 voter registration units will be deployed close to where people actually reside, thus lessening drastically the distances people have to get to the mobile registration centres. These will be additional to the 73 centres already mentioned above.”
Kazembe said the commission was aware that the majority of eligible first-time voters did not have identity documents needed for registration. Zec suspended a planned voter registration blitz because of the Registrar-General’s incapacitation to produce IDs.
However MDC Alliance secretary for elections Ian Makone said the opposition party was not amused by Zec’s admission that available voter registration centres were inaccessible.
“Zec has been fully aware of the call by stakeholders, including MDC Alliance, that they should facilitate voter registration by establishing registration points within reach of target voters,” Makone said.
“Zec is aware that the target registrants are mostly young unemployed youths. It is irresponsible to blame low registration statistics on voter apathy by persons who are eager to exercise their democratic right to vote.”
MDC-T spokesperson Witness Dube chipped in: “Zec needed to have worked with the Registrar-General’s office in order to facilitate an accelerated national identity card registration process. It is usually new voters who spike the voter registration exercise and they need IDs in order to become first-time voters”
Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) chairperson Andrew Makoni said Zec’s revelations of having registered only 2 000 voters this year were worrying, and disconcerting after 22 656 deceased voters were removed from the voters’ roll this year.
“It points to either apathy or the absence of continuous voter education on the importance of registering as a voter, targeting especially those who turn 18 years every day and become eligible to vote.
“Given that elections are due in about 17 months, it has become even more urgent to intensify voter education followed by an extensive voter registration exercise across the country. This must start now,” Makoni said.