I refer to the story “US$270M Development Assistance Fund,” The Zimbabwean, 16/02/15.
May I crave your indulgence with two humble requests as a member of the Zimbabwean Diaspora.
Given that the US$270m development grant under the National Indicative Programme (NIP) is funded under the 11th European Development Fund (EDF) covering 2014-2020 and comes three months after the EU resumed direct engagement with Zimbabwe, I have only two humble requests regarding the governance sector for the benefit of all Zimbabweans.
First, Zimbabwe’s governance can only be presumed as adequately reformed with confidence when it has put in place among other things credible measures to conduct peaceful, inclusive, free and fair internationally supervised elections ahead of the crucial 2018 harmonised elections.
My request is that part of your funding should enable the estimated 3-4 million Zimbabweans in the Diaspora to vote in 2018. That means, there is need for a clear roadmap now providing for, inter alia, the immediate full transfer of voter registration powers from the Registrar General’s Office to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. I know that that is regarded as highly sensitive in Zimbabwe.
But, ZEC must publicise a comprehensive and transparent voter registration exercise which includes those all of us in the Diaspora without failure this time. There were enough alibis given for the disenfranchisement of the Diaspora in 2013, despite the new constitution providing for that right and in spite of funding offers from the United Nations. That should not be allowed to happen again.
Second, you may be aware that Namibia became the first African country to use electronic voting machines in its elections on 28 and 29 November 2014. In Namibia voters cast their ballots for presidential and parliamentary candidates on separate machines and the results were announced by the Electoral Commission of Namibia (ECN) on December 1, 2014, despite some minor glitches.
That is what we would want in Zimbabwe in 2018. Therefore, my request is for part of your governance grant to purchase these tamper free portable Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) and provide training for ZEC staff, civil society monitors and run a mass media education awareness programme for the electorate in the operation of electronic voting machines in time for the 2018 elections. There should be objectively verifiable indicators of progress well ahead of the elections.
Crucially, these voting machines don’t cost a fortune and can be sourced from India where Namibia bought 5,860 customised EVMs along with battery packs, tabulators, printers and other accessories for less than one million US dollars for its 1.2 million eligible voters.
To prevent vote rigging, the EVMs are not connected to electricity and cannot be accessed via any other means and do not transmit any signal or connect to any type of network. The EVM is battery powered. It has a battery life of 54 hours if used continuously, and up to 2,000 voters van use the EVM before it reaches full capacity. No ballot papers are printed. All that a voter does is to press the button next to their choice. There is no writing involved.
I am sure, you would like to leave a proud legacy of delivering democratic governance in Zimbabwe in more practical terms than running workshops while the country is fast sliding towards anarchy.
Clifford Chitupa Mashiri, former diplomat and UK-based political analyst, zimanalysis2009@gmail.