By Tichaona Sibanda
03 January 2013
The voter registration exercise officially commenced on Thursday, in readiness for the crucial elections expected sometime this year. However it got off to a slow start due to the poor publicity of the exercise.
There are fears the lack of publicity could be a deliberate plot to keep potential voters away from registering.
The countrywide exercise is expected to last three months, during which Zimbabweans will be required to either register as new voters or verify their details on the voters’ roll.
Senator Obert Gutu, the MDC-T deputy Minister of Justice and Legal Affairs, told SW Radio Africa’s Crisis Analysis program that the 3rd January was set down as the official date for the commencement of the voter registration exercise.
The date was set down last month during a meeting between Zimbabwe Electoral Commissioners, the ZEC secretariat and Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai. That meeting was also attended by Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and Gutu.
‘I would not be telling you the truth when I say there is evidence to suggest there is hyper-activity in as far as the voter registration exercise is concerned. There has been very little awareness publicizing the exercise.
‘We would have expected ZEC to go out of its way to engage both the print and electronic media in conscientizing people, raising people’s awareness, particularly in the rural areas where obviously people might not get information faster than those in urban areas,’ Gutu said.
While he urged all Zimbabweans to participate in the exercise, Gutu highlighted recently that the exercise is still unnecessarily cumbersome and is discouraging the younger generation from registering as voters. He said there are still a lot of hurdles that people come across if they want to register, especially tenants in urban areas.
‘One needs to have proof of residence to register and this depends on the benevolence of the landlord or landlady to help by supplying a copy of any utility bill. In the rural areas you need a letter from a Sabhuku (headman) and people feel discouraged, being tossed from office to office.
‘An average person will end up giving up because of the amount of time spent trying to get the right papers,’ Gutu said, adding that a much simpler way should be found to allow everyone who is qualified and eligible for the registration to do so without any hassles.