Voter registration to proceed: ZEC

via Voter registration to proceed: ZEC | The Herald January 27, 2015

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will proceed with the registration of voters for the Mt Darwin West and Chirumanzu-Zibagwe by-elections despite the absence of an enabling Act, the electoral body has revealed.

This comes as Cde Barnwell Seremwe, won the ticket to represent Zanu-PF in Mt Darwin West in the by-election set for March 27 after beating three other contenders in primary polls held on Sunday.

Cde Auxilia Mnangagwa won the bid to represent Zanu-PF in Chirumanzu-Zibagwe unopposed.

The voter registration and inspection of the voters’ roll, which would also be done for a council by-election in Chinhoyi Ward 15, started yesterday, with ZEC saying it was using the exercise as a pilot project to test its voter registration model.

Responding to questions from The Herald yesterday, ZEC said there were two schools of thought on how they should proceed with the registration of voters, but these had not been tested in any court of law.

This dispels assertions by some western-funded organisations that it was impossible for ZEC to register voters because the amended Electoral Act had left out “crucial provisions on voter registration and inspection of the voters’ roll”.

Said ZEC : “Voters’ roll inspection and voter registration commenced today in the centres indicated in our notice that appeared in the press recently.

“There are two main schools of thought regarding the existing legal framework governing the registration of voters by ZEC. One holds that in the absence of an enabling Act, ZEC cannot lawfully carry out its function to register voters. The second holds that the gap in the law is not a legal bar per se to ZEC registering voters as long as it does so in accordance with the extant Electoral Act to the extent that this is consistent with the provisions of the Constitution.

“Both are very persuasive but mutually exclusive legal arguments that have not been tested in any court of law. As yet, there is no decision of the courts spelling out which of the two represents the correct position at law.”

Section 293 (c) of the Constitution stipulates that ZEC shall, in addition to its functions, register voters, compile voters’ roll and registers, ensure custody and maintenance of voters’ rolls and register and delimit constituencies, wards and other electoral boundaries.

Previously, the constitutional function to register voters was done by the then Registrar General of Voters.

ZEC said after the 2013 harmonised elections, it started developing a voter registration strategy that it would roll out once the enabling legislation was enacted.

“The development of the registration strategy included convening a number of stakeholder engagement workshops,” ZEC said.

“It was resolved at one of the workshops that the development of the strategy would include the rolling out of a pilot registration exercise to test the capacity of ZEC on the ground before rolling out a nationwide exercise.

“In that regard it was envisaged that the enabling law would be in place by August 2014 when the Electoral Act was amended. This was not to be. ZEC has waited since August 2013 up to now for the enactment of the enabling law.”

ZEC added: “Now ZEC considers that the by-elections in Chinhoyi Municipality, Mt Darwin West and Chirumanzu–Zibagwe constituencies provide ZEC with an opportunity to roll out its pilot project to register voters and hopefully produce a copy of an updated voters’ roll for the by-elections.

“Lessons learnt from the pilot project will feed into the nationwide project that should commence now if ZEC is to have a national voters’ roll and be ready for the general elections in 2018.”

ZEC is using the voters’ roll used during the harmonised elections as a basis for the exercise and those whose names appear on that roll will not be re-registered.

The exercise, according to ZEC, is primarily meant to register people who turned 18 after July 10, 2013 and those who have never registered for any election.

Mt Darwin West fell vacant after former Vice President Joice Mujuru was appointed to the VP post on September 11, 2013.

Cde Seremwe, who won the bid to represent Zanu-PF was born in 1971, in Dotito and is a successful farmer in Mt Darwin. He polled 4 625 votes against Cde Godfrey Tsenengamu’s 3 653 and Cde Caleb Karima’s 2 640.

Another contestant Cde Kennedy Banda garnered 2 027 votes in an election that was observed by several Zanu-PF Central Committee members.

Zanu-PF Mashonaland Central provincial chair, Cde Dickson Mafios, told The Herald after polling that he was impressed by the peaceful manner in which the elections were held.

He said the huge turnout was clear testimony of Zanu-PF’s dominance in the province.

“This is just a primary election and this huge turnout coming soon after our successful Congress confirms the support that Zanu-PF enjoys in this province,” he said.

“We are happy that we had a Central Committee member at almost every polling station, which is another testimony of the democracy that exists in our party.” After the announcement of the results, Cde Seremwe said he was ready to serve the people of Mt Darwin West.

“I am here as a servant of the people and I am ready to represent their interests in Parliament said Cde Seremwe.

“I am here to receive the challenges that are facing the people and take them to Parliament.”

However, Cde Tsenengamu expressed concern in the manner in which the election was conducted.

He said the party constitution was flouted after the provincial election directorate allowed ordinary party members decide suitability of the candidates.

Cde Tsenengamu said on the voting day, some people who were not on the party’s voters’ roll were allowed to vote against an earlier agreement that only those with names on the cell register were eligible.

“There was an order later in the day that those not on the cell register should vote,” he said.

“There were some challenges at some polling stations and I alerted Cde Paul Mangwana who advised me to put my complaints in writing.”

Other political parties such Professor Lovermore Madhuku’s National Constitutional Assembly have also upped preparations for the by-elections.

The party’s spokesperson Mr Murdock Chivasa, told The Herald yesterday that they had conducted primary elections in three wards and Chirumanzu-Zibabwe House of Assembly Parliamentary seat where by-elections were due.

The Chirumanzu-Zibagwe seat automatically became vacant by operation of the law when Cde Emmerson Mnangagwa assumed the Office of Vice President of Zimbabwe on December 10.

Mr Chivasa said they would hold primary elections in Mt Darwin West today.

“For Chirumanzu-Zibagwe our candidate is Munashe Mutodza and we are having our primary elections in Mt Darwin West tomorrow (today),” he said.

Mr Chivasa said they were ready for the elections and was confident that they would spring some surprises.

Mr Kisinoti Mukwazhe of the Zimbabwe Development Party said his party would not contest in the by-elections as they were resource constrained.

He said they were mobilising resources for the 2018 elections.

The MDC formations, which had suffered perennial losses at the hands of Zanu-PF had chickened out of the election except the Professor Welshman Ncube-led faction.

Meanwhile, the Nomination Court is sitting on Thursday to receive nomination papers.