15 January 2018 – The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has embarked on a Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) mop up exercise from 10 January to 8 February 2018. 2 850 mobile and 87 static registration centers were established across the country. The mop up was necessitated by low turnout in some provinces and a High Court Judgement ordering ZEC to register “aliens” who hitherto, were denied the right. While the extension of voter registration is commendable, the ERC notes that the exercise was launched before the completion of adequate preparations, procedures and communication. Further, the ERC is concerned that critical electoral processes continue to be administered against the backdrop of an Electoral Act that remains largely unaligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
ERC notes with concern:
- The failure by ZEC to timeously release a list of voter registration centers to ensure effective participation by citizens from an informed position;
- Requirements for former “aliens” have not been adequately published and publicized for ease of participation by the vulnerable group;
- The lack of explanation on the selection or sampling criteria for the 2 850 registration centers and the absence of disaggregated data prevents stakeholders from assessing the sampling criteria of the mop up exercise. In addition, although “aliens” reside across the country, ZEC set up 2 850 mobile centers out of over 9 500 polling stations;
- Voter education and voter information for voter registration remains largely inadequate as witnessed by low uptake of the BVR exercise particularly in Harare and Bulawayo. There is lack of information on whether mechanisms were established by ZEC to ensure effective participation by marginalized groups of “aliens,” women, youth and persons with disabilities in the mop up exercise.
- Statements attributed to the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi insisting that there will be no electoral reforms ahead of the impending harmonized elections. Lack of electoral reforms compromises the independence of ZEC and subsequently the transparency, accountability and adhering to international best practice regarding administration of electoral processes.
ERC implores ZEC to:
- Intensify voter education for voter registration targeting “aliens,” women, youth, persons with disabilities and other marginalized groups largely affected by challenges during the previous BVR exercise;
- Increase number of mobile registration centers to enhance inclusivity of marginalized and disadvantaged groups;
- Increase number of kits in areas that reported a low turnout of registrants, in particular, Bulawayo, Harare and Matabeleland South.
- Propose immediate reform of electoral processes in particular alignment of electoral laws with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, including but not limited to ensuring independence of ZEC, extending the right to vote to all eligible Zimbabweans, creation of a political environment that allows citizens to freely participate in electoral processes and opening up our electoral processes for international scrutiny.
ERC urges ZEC to address the fundamental issues above to ensure a comprehensive and inclusive BVR mop up exercise. Transparency in all electoral processes is key for ZEC to enhance trust ahead of the harmonized elections.