LAST week the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) published a very long list of presumably deceased individuals that it has removed from the voters roll.
This was a very welcome development considering that for many past elections, the issue of dead people cropping up on the voters roll and actually voting has been a thorny issue that has raised eyebrows. So Zec must be commended for cleaning this very critical document that speaks to the institution running a free, fair and credible plebiscite.
There is, however, a major challenge regarding the Zec notice, which partly reads: “By means of this notice, notification is made to any voter on the First Schedule who may be alive to lodge an objection, at the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Mahachi Quantum, 1, Nelson Mandela Avenue, corner Kaguvi Street and Jason Moyo Avenue, Harare and at the respective commission provincial offices, to the inclusion of his or her name in the First Schedule using the form prescribed in the Second Schedule no later than seven days from the date of publication of this notice.”
Honestly speaking, giving the more than five million voters on the roll just seven days to find and scan through the 32 000 list of names does not sound right.
Firstly, how does one access the list because not many Zimbabweans know of the Government Gazette in which the notice was published, let alone afford buying it at US$2 or $640.
Secondly, giving citizens just seven days to find and peruse the list is too short a period.
Thirdly, given that many voters hardly hear about these notices because they have very little access to the media, they will never know about this notice.
We, therefore, believe it is Zec’s responsibility to make sure that everyone on the voters roll gets to know about this list and it should, therefore, devise ways to make sure that all voters out there are informed about this.
Just publishing a notice in the Government Gazette and sit back and wait for seven days to elapse and then tick “Done” on its to do list is half-hearted and insincere on the part of Zec. If Zec believes it is not its duty to make sure every voter or at least the majority are notified about this list, then there is no point in the organisation publishing it in the first place.
Notice publication must not be routine, done to fulfil a task for the sake of fulfilling it.
Given the advent of cellphones and social media, we are quite sure Zec can, for example, afford to send bulk messages on every cellphone number registered with NetOne, Econet and Telecel. It cannot be regarded as untoward for anyone to receive a notice on their phones from Zec informing them to visit the nearest Zec office and peruse the list of presumably deceased people.
We are currently receiving hundreds of useless bulk messages on our phones from inconsequential organisations marketing their products and services; and we believe a message from Zec notifying us all of the existence of this list would go a long way in making the whole process as transparent as possible.
Zec must go the extra mile in making sure as many people as possible know about this reportedly dead people’s list. This way, if any disputes arise after the seven days, which is too short a notice anyway, Zec can always say at least it tried its best to reach as many people as possible. As it is, that notice has hardly been read by a thousand people.