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Voters roll a mess, claims Zanu-PF

by Staff reporter
01 Nov 2022 at 05:13hrs | Views
Zanu-PF has admitted that the voters roll to be used in next year's polls is a mess and needs serious scrutiny and audit for it to be credible.

Section 35 of the Electoral Act gives the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) powers to correct any errors on the voters roll and to ensure that it is as clean as possible.

The ruling party's central committee (CC) report to the 7th national people's congress held in Harare last week reveals that its legal department conducted a mini-audit of the voters roll after several people complained that it was manipulated.

"We received a report of manipulated voters rolls from different people. As such, the department conducted a mini-audit of the voters roll for Harare West. The department unearthed several anomalies, including multiple registrants on a single house and non-existent addresses.

"However, the time of objecting had elapsed, so we resolved to conduct a national voters roll audit, particularly in towns and cities ahead of 2023 elections," the report read.

Zanu-PF has largely defended Zec whenever opposition political parties raise queries over the voters roll, which they claim is shambolic.

It has also sided with Zec, which is refusing to release an electronic voters roll in CD format.

Citizens Coalition for Change deputy spokesperson Gift Siziba said the admission by the ruling party that the voters roll is shambolic five months before elections are held vindicates their claims all along that next year's elections will not be free and fair.

"Zanu-PF's admission vindicates our long held narrative that we have a problem with Zec, and one of the issues that must be resolved before the 2023 elections is the voters roll. We have proffered what Zec must do in order to conduct a credible election, and it is not imaginary, but is within the confines of the law," Siziba said.

People's Unity Party leader Herbert Chamuka said:  "It is refreshing that the ruling party has finally seen the light and also wants a clean voters roll. However, what is worrying is that it only wants to audit the voters roll   in towns, leaving it in shambles in rural areas where it is strong."

Asked by NewsDay yesterday to explain if a political party can audit the voters roll, Zec chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana responded: "Using which law?"

Silaigwana then referred further questions to Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana, who demanded that questions be put in writing, but had not responded to them by the time of going to print last night.

Last week, Zec said it would not avail the voters roll through the portable electronic mode to protect it from possible tampering.

But electoral watchdogs described Zec's position as a major blow to transparent polls as it is difficult to scrutinise a voluminous document, which carries information of more than five million registered voters.

Meanwhile, civic organisation, Team Pachedu which comprises information technology experts continues to expose weaknesses in the country's voters roll.

"There are double voters in the voters roll. In our cross-country fieldwork, we investigated all the red-flagged duplicates and confirmed their existence. There are several records belonging to one person who can vote twice in two neighbouring wards/constituencies," Team Pachedu tweeted yesterday.

Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust spokesperson Cyril Mushambi said: "It is sad that the institutions that are supposed to look after the voters roll for democratic elections are being careless and inconsiderate. A mismanaged voters roll means Zec and government are not committed to our call for free, fair and credible elections."

Other fresh anomalies that have been exposed by Team Pachedu include fake residential addresses and wrong addresses, which could jeopardise the delimitation process.

Team Pachedu said the delimitation roll has 118 "dubious" voters who claim to reside at a residence in the Harare central business district and were all virtually registered on the same date.

They said they visited the address and found out that it was actually a commercial property with no one staying there.

Some voters were said to be registered in two different constituencies.

In an interview with NewsDay, Team Pachedu said: "Zec has not yet opened the portal which they mentioned that they are still developing. The timelines for the rollout have not yet been released. We hope they will expedite and avail it in the next couple of weeks - not months. We have the March 2022 version of the voters roll that is being automatically synchronised with records on the Zec BVR (biometric voter registration) website. So, technically, we have the current records, but only for those who registered before April 2020. We currently do not have access to any records of the voters who registered between March and October."

They said they track all new changes - either deletions or edits each time Zec updates the voter registrants on its BVR site, which enables them to pick anomalies.

"We acknowledge that Zec has made a lot of changes to the roll between April and August, especially with respect to standardising addresses, but there is a lot of work still to be done to perfect the roll. The real issues have not yet been implemented. We hope to publish our final report once we have access to the final delimitation roll."

Mangwana dismissed Team Pachedu's claims saying the commission did not have an electronic voters roll.

"It is misleading because Zec is still working on the portal, and those who requested the electronic portal will be advised once it is ready. What are available are hard copies at the moment.  Zec has no database of addresses of the country and uses affidavits provided by the voter. There are no limits per residential area on how many people reside there. Zec has a role to assist citizens to register to vote," Mangwana said.

Source - Newsday Zimbabwe