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Zimbabwe EC urged to do more despite apparent biometric voter registration success

Zimbabwe EC urged to do more despite apparent biometric voter registration success
 

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has announced the enrollment of over 25,000 new registrants so far in the national biometric voter registration drive that began on February 1, 2022, but civil society organizations and other stakeholders say a number of problems are facing the process and need to be urgently resolved.

The ZEC said in a statement quoted by News Day that the announced figure of 25,603 biometric registrations was attained in just two weeks thanks to the existence of many registration centers and the work done by mobile registration teams. The highest figures have been recorded in the capital, Harare.

“Last year, we did not have the mobile registration blitz, hence we recorded a lower number of registrants. Prospective voters were supposed to come to our offices, but in this blitz, we have gone closer to the people. Due to distance barriers, some of our centres were inaccessible, but this time, we have established 210 teams throughout the country to ensure that we reach out to even the most remote areas to enable people to register,” ZEC Spokesperson Joyce Kazembe told News Day.

There are a total 2,700 biometric voter registration centers around the country and the electoral body is hopeful that before the first phase of the registration ends on 28 February, many more voters would have been included.

Civil society concerns over ZEC approach

Despite this announcement, there are concerns about low voter turnout in some provinces of the country, as well as lack of adequate voter education campaigns by the ZEC to scale up the numbers.

The Election Resource Centre (ERC), a Zimbabwean civil society organization, in a statement published by Kabatana said it welcomed the announcement from the ZEC calling the figures “a step in the right direction.”

However, the nonprofit organization has urged the ZEC to use the remaining time available for the registration to further decentralize voter registration centers to increase the uptake of voter registration in Zimbabwe, increase voter awareness of the voter registration blitz and synchronize efforts with other stakeholders for a wider reach, as well as collaborate with the Registrar-General’s office to ensure that all those who intend to register can be issued ID cards.

Meanwhile, the ERC in another statement also raised concerns over complaints of alleged tampering with the electoral roll by the ZEC ahead of a by-election billed for the end of next month. The organization said it had received reports that some potential voters had discovered changes in their polling stations without any notification from the ZEC.

Active youth participation hailed

Reacting to the ZEC announcement of 25,000 voters already registered, Youth Forum Zimbabwe, a youth-focused non-governmental organization, expressed delight with the numbers, and hailed the young people who have taken advantage of the voter registration blitz to add their names to the voter roll.

In a statement published by Kabatana, the Forum thanked those who were able to steal time out of their tight work schedules to register and be part of the process to “define their own destinies.”

The second phase of the current biometric voter registration process will run from 10-30 April 2022. Authorities say the exercise is to enable the electoral commission to delimit new constituencies ahead of next year’s general elections.

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