By Charmaine Makayi
HARARE – Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has recently published a report that approximately 5.42 million people have registered to vote as of April 2018. There are several factors which have prompted citizens to register for July elections such as hope for a new era, fear, youth mobilization and incentives which were given to citizens in some parts of the country.
Fear of the unknown motivated citizens to register in some parts of high density suburbs such as Kuwadzana, Warren Park, Mufakose and Mbare where rumors were spreading that soldiers would terrorize residents who would fail to produce a registration slip.
Some residents registered because they feared torture and intimidation. ‘I have to get any means to go to the registration centre because I heard that the soldiers will beat those without a registration slip soon’’ said an elderly man who is physically handicapped.
In remote areas, villagers were ordered to produce a proof of residence in order to register. Political scientist Mr Bekezela Gumbo said, ‘that requirement was a pushing factor’ which contributed to a greater number of people registering coming from the rural areas. Mr Bekezela Gumbo added that for one to have a proof of residence it then means that the kraal head (sabhuku) would know who would have registered or not.
The mobilization of youths to register through concerts organised by ZEC and community organisations such as Platform for Youth Development (PYD) and Heal Zimbabwe Trust played a crucial role as 60% of registered voters are youths.
Early this year an International Peace Concert was held to encourage youths to register and vote which was attended by over 30 000 youths where Winky D performed. The concert only required a voter registration slip to attend freely.
In Chipinge, Platform for Youth Development (PYD) organised a ‘register go and vote sports gala’ in Musikavanhu and Chipinge South constituencies where over 400 youths attended. PYD’s initiative was ‘to send the message to encourage young people to register to be voters and inspect their names in the voter’s roll which will be out in the following weeks’ said Mr Claris Madhuku the Director of the organisation.
The Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) and ZEC held a road show campaign in Zaka district in March which was motivating residents to register and vote for the upcoming elections. The campaign attracted hundreds of people from the local community.
Many Citizens were motivated by the ‘November Revolution’ which ousted the former president Robert Mugabe when the military intervened last year. This gave hope and courage for many Zimbabweans to register and vote for a change. The former president whom others thought was invincible and irreplaceable stepped down from ruling. Zimbabweans had lost hope as Mugabe’s government was autocratic and corrupt during the election period.
The state broadcaster Zimbabwe Broadcasting Corporation (ZBC) announced ‘a new dawn, a new era’ for Zimbabwe inspired many citizens. The ‘November Revolution’ was a light glowing to a brighter future for many Zimbabweans who decided that ‘their voice is their right’ and ‘their vote is their voice’. Zimbabweans are longing for an economy liberated from bondage that is able to transform the lives of over 90% unemployed citizens.
In Manicaland food distribution played a huge role in prompting starving and desperate citizens to register. In Chibuwe under Musikavanhu constituency Mai Learnmore Manganga and Joseph Hlanguyo (Zanu PF members) were dishing out food to those who had come with their registration slips to their meetings. The serial numbers from the registration slips were used to verify their supporters. ZEC officer Mr Ziki stressed that it is illegal and a criminal offense punishable by a jail term to compile voter slips and serial numbers which was done by some Zanu PF members.