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Zec must respect citizens' rights

by Staff reporter
15 Jan 2022 at 00:15hrs | Views
THE announcement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission  (ZEC) that all new voters who registered this year will not be captured on the national voters' roll and might not vote in the March 26 by-elections and 2023 general polls could cause first-time voters to lose confidence in the system.

Zec chairperson Priscilla Chigumba told journalists in Victoria Falls on Thursday that possession of a registration slip did not mean one would be automatically added onto the voters' roll.

Does it mean that Zec's data capturing system is so archaic that the electoral management body, whose core business is dealing in figures, is still doing its work manually?

This is a key question Zec must answer as first-time registrants are eager to exercise their right to vote in the March by-elections and other plebiscites.

For too long, Zec has failed to hold the by-elections, claiming it was waiting for a directive from the Health minister that the environment was now conducive to go ahead with the by-elections following the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country in March 2020.

Having come under immense pressure from civic society organisations and the citizenry to hold the by-elections, Zec capitulated, but has now come up with other excuses, which will advertently disenfranchise new voters.

In essence, the "powers-that-be" are using Zec to frustrate new voters so that they lose hope even in participating in the 2023 general elections.

Chigumba says Zec has two verification systems to check the national identity document and the fingerprint verification, which is run through a system called automated fingerprint verification system.

If those two processes take more than a month to capture 2 971 new voters registered in 2021, as Zec claimed, how long will it take to register Zanu-PF and MDC Alliance targeted millions of first-time voters?

How long will it take them to conduct the so-called "meticulous verification of ballots" after the polls?

With Zec's slow pace, all these millions that political parties are mobilising to participate in the elections, might still not be able to cast their ballots in the 2023 harmonised elections.

Government must channel more resources towards upgrading Zec's data capturing system to enable an efficient and timely registration and verification process.

On the other hand, Zec should be prepared to bend the rules and allow these first-time registrants to vote given that they were denied the opportunity to register on time due to COVID-19 restrictions and Zec's own failure to provide adequate registration centres.

The fact that Zec spokesperson Joyce Kazembe publicly apologised for disenfranchising thousands of potential first-time registrants to register due to failure to provide adequate and accessible registration centres should compel the electoral management body to consider allowing first-time registrants to vote upon production of their registration slips.

Source - NewsDay Zimbabwe
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