via Mudede’s stance on voters’ roll suspicious | The Financial Gazette by Maggie Mzumara 27 Mar 2014
REPORTS that the Registrar General (RG)’s Office would not be handing over the current voters’ register to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), but that the latter would have to come up with its own, could give credence to allegations that the voters’ roll used in the last election could have been manipulated.
According to the new Constitution, the voters’ roll is now the responsibility of ZEC and not the RG’s Office as provided for by the previous constitution. Mudede said his office would not be relinquishing the current roll to ZEC.
Chairperson of ZEC, Rita Makarau, responded saying her commission had no locus standi to make Mudede surrender the register as the commission moves to construct a new voters’ roll ahead of the 2018 harmonised polls.
Following the RG’s Office’s reluctance to provide open access of the voters’ roll to stakeholders including other political parties in the run- up to July 2013 harmonised elections, there were allegations that the register had been manipulated and had ghost voters, repetitions and other irregularities.
And when ZANU-PF won the elections, opposition parties cried foul citing manipulation of the voters’ roll by the ruling party with the assistance of an Israeli company, Nikuv, which is said to be an expert in developing registers and other documents of civil registry. Opposition parties have reacted angrily to the stance taken by Mudede.
Douglas Mwonzora, the national spokesperson for the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC-T), said while the main opposition party welcomes the construction of a new voters’ roll, it was curious that Mudede would decline handing over the register to his bosses.
“We do not understand why Tobaiwa Mudede must refuse with the voters’ registration.
“The refusal shows that our assertions were true that the voters’ roll was tampered with,” he alleged, adding that any construction of a new voters’ register should be done transparently, otherwise, nothing much would change.
Leader of the Mavambo/Kusile/Dawn party, Simba Makoni, agrees that a fresh voters’ roll may be the best bet for the country. “Mudede’s roll is of no value. We have already raised concerns of it being defective. It was not complete, it not inspected, neither was it verified by other parties as prescribed by the Constitution,” Makoni said. “The value of the current voters’ roll is insignificant. It will be well advised for Makarau to roll out a process to come up with a fresh roll which will give the citizens confidence.”
Some civil society organisations have also weighed in on the stance by the RG, saying not only does it bring to question the state of the register but that it also undermines ZEC.
“The comments attributed to Mudede regarding the submission of the voters’ roll to ZEC makes sad reading. The statements, if true, raise unnecessary speculation around two major issues that have a bearing on the credibility of past and, potentially, future elections in Zimbabwe,” said Tawanda Chimhini, director of Election Resource Centre — a non-governmental organisation which was founded to service the needs of election stakeholders.
“The first major issue that comes to the fore is the relationship between the Registrar of Voters and the Election Commission,” Chimhini continued, adding, “The statement gives the impression of frosty relations and puts paid to claims that while constitutionally, ZEC should be in full control of elections in Zimbabwe, they are in practice, not.
“Secondly, the position attributed to Mudede, if true, suggests an unwillingness to cooperate in bringing greater transparency to the issue of the voters’ roll. In the absence of full disclosure and sharing of information around elections, there will exists a basis for speculation which then fuels loss of confidence in the bodies that have been running elections in Zimbabwe.”
Further implications coming out of the position attributed to Mudede and the response from Makarau, Chimhini said, “are that Zimbabwe’s already chaos-ridden election processes could be heading towards new and in fact unprecedented disaster levels, that of a country which will have two voters’ rolls, one controlled by the Registrar of Voters and the other by the Election Commission. This is unheard of and ridiculous.”
Given the history of Zimbabwe’s elections, the hope among many has been that going forward it would be a priority for the new government and ZEC to bring sanity to all election associated processes.
However, with the unfolding scenario, it would appear that a credible and acceptable voters’ roll may be a long shot.