Source: Zec bombshell for urban voters – NewsDay Zimbabwe July 7, 2017
OPPOSITION parties are up in arms with the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) after the electoral body announced that of the over 9 600 voter registration centres being set up in the country, only less than 12% of them have been earmarked for Harare and Bulawayo, with perceived Zanu PF strongholds getting the bulk of the centres.
BY PAIDAMOYO MUZULU/BLESSED MHLANGA
The opposition voiced their concerns at a Zec high-level meeting with political parties and media houses in the capital yesterday, which was called ahead of the biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise for the 2018 elections.
Zec said there would be 9 663 registration centres across the country and Harare and Bulawayo would have 700 and 400 centres, respectively.
Manicaland will have 1 310, Mashonaland Central 870, Mashonaland East 1 135 and Mashonaland West 1 220.
Masvingo has been allocated 1 265, Matabeleland North 850, Matabeleland South 640 and Midlands 1 390.
MDC-T national executive member Murisi Zwizwai said his party was shocked that the two metropolitan provinces had fewer centres, yet they had high population densities.
“We don’t understand the rationale why registration centres in Harare are not equal to the number of polling stations in the province like what has happened to other provinces,” he said.
“We will be consulting our structures and make representations to Zec on the matter.”
Zwizwai’s sentiments were echoed by his party’s secretary-general, Douglas Mwonzora, who said there was a lot of data that needed to be digested and they would need time to consult their members and experts for advice.
MDC secretary-general Miriam Mushayi also voiced her concern at the registration centres.
“We think that the matters should be looked into and addressed to the satisfaction of all players. It would be
unfortunate if thousands of voters in urban areas are disenfranchised through the registration process,” she said.
Zimbabwe Development Party leader Kisinoti Mukwazhe said there should be equality and equity on registration.
“All potential voters should have an equal opportunity to easily register and be on the voters’ roll so that they participate in the elections,” he said.
“The process should not be seen to be giving an advantage to rural voters only.”
People’s Democratic Party spokesman Jacob Mafume said: “They are deliberately putting a few centres to frustrate registration in the urban areas. They want people to fail to register in their numbers in towns so that they can rig or suppress the vote of the opposition.”
The Election Resources Centre also raised concern.
“In the spirit of inclusiveness, Zec must be prepared allow a public and stakeholder review of the proposed centres before finalisation of the same,” the body said.
“While Zec has a constitutional mandate to administer elections independently, ignoring concerns of stakeholders will diminish public confidence in electoral processes.”
Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said the parties were free to raise issues.
“We will accept your representations in writing as long as they are based on facts, objective and scientific reasoning,” she said. “You should tell us why we should increase registration centres in one province and where we will reduce the centres.”
The electoral body’s secretariat, in its presentation by Utloile Silaigwana, the deputy chief elections officer, had said the allocation of registration centres was based on population density, settlement patterns, expansiveness of provinces and districts and ZimStat 2012 census projections.
The opposition parties also cried foul during the 2013 general elections when the number of polling stations in cities and towns was dramatically reduced compared to rural constituencies.
Harare experienced a slow and painful registration process in 2013, amid complaints that Zec staff were slow and demanded a number of documents like proof of residence for urban voters, while this was not asked for in rural constituencies.
In rural areas, voters were simply required to have a letter from their village head.
This resulted in many prospective new voters failing to register in 2013.
Zec also faces a challenge of meeting its deadlines for the BVR kits roll-out after it emerged it was yet to fulfil its contractual obligations with Laxton Group of Companies for the supply of the kits.
Justice Makarau said the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe was expected to make the first payment, a deposit of just above
$3,6 million, today to enable Laxton Group to start the production of the kits.
The payment will be made nearly a month after Zec signed an over $7 million deal for the supply of 3 000 BVR kits, which will be used to collect voters’ biometric data.
According to details of the contract, Laxton Group will only supply 400 BVR kits within 45 working days after the payment of the 50% deposit.
The 400 kits will be used for training software engineers, technicians and BVR kit operators, a process which Makarau said would take 29 days.
Laxton will supply the remaining 2 600 kits at least 70 days after Zec pays the remaining half and that was only when Zec would roll out the voter registration exercise.
Zec would also conduct a 70-day public awareness campaign for the voter registration before rolling out the 72-day programme.
Sources said the delay by Zec in processing payment would affect the timelines of voter registration and would also compromise the credibility of the voters’ roll.
“They have not yet paid yet the contract stipulates that Laxton will only start production of the kits upon payment of the deposit. This means that our ability to stick to the timeline is determined by our ability to make payments,” a Zec official said.
Makarau said her team was in negotiations with Laxton to shorten the time of delivery of the kits after payment.
The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network said it was important for the voters’ roll to be completed on time to allow for scrutiny of the roll months before the election.