Zimbabwe biometric voter registration system to cost $55 million
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) chairperson Rita Makarau said earlier this week that it will cost $55 million to deploy a biometric voters’ registration exercise in advance of the upcoming elections, according to a report by the Africa News Agency.
The news comes a few months after the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) announced its plans to introduce a biometric voting system as part of its reforms ahead of the 2018 general elections.
The ZEC’s plans to use the full biometric system which integrates both facial recognition and fingerprinting was a response to an overwhelming backlash by political parties and other stakeholders in regards to the country’s previous voters’ roll and manual voter registration method.
“If you remember when we did the 2013 elections, one outstanding issue was about the state of our voters’ roll,” said Makarau. “So as ZEC, as we prepare for 2018, we are trying to see how we can improve on the integrity of that voters’ roll so that we don’t have the same observations coming up again in 2018.
“Obviously the last option (full biometric) appears to be the best because it eradicates duplication, but it is subject to availability of resources. It is very costly but we want to appeal to funders and government to say allow us to go full biometric because that is the best option available at the moment.”
Makarau said that the electoral body was holding consultative meetings with stakeholders, but emphasized that the ZEC will ultimately have the final decision on what method they should use since they are an independent body.
The electoral body previously sent representatives to Cameroon, Tanzania and Zambia to study their models as well as engaged experts with the help of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
The Zimbabwe government is obligated to fund the registration process, while technical partners will provide further assistance, said Makarau.
“Government has to fund this because we are funded from Treasury and if there is any assistance coming from the technical partners it will be assistance,” said Makarau, “but the main funder is government and we look forward to government to fund the entire $55 million and maybe with assistance from the technical partners. We have already communicated to government and the response is favourable.”.
Since mid-2015, the UNDP has been engaging with ZEC and has made small steps in a number of areas of capacity building, according to UN resident coordinator Bishow Parajuli.
He said that the UN agency did not have enough resources for the second stage — which involves supporting the ZEC in the areas of voter registration, voter education and reinforcing further institutional capacity — and is now relying on other development partners and the Zimbabwe government to complete the process.
Parajuli said that political parties ought to take greater responsibility of the election process and encourage eligible voters to register and vote, as well as called on stakeholders to consider holding cost-free elections.