By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
10 June 2013
The 30-day mobile voter registration exercise finally got under way Monday and is expected to be conducted in each of the country’s 1,958 constituency wards.
The programme, a requirement under the country’s new constitution, will come as a relief to thousands of Zimbabweans who failed to register during the initial 20-day campaign held between April and May.
These include individuals who were classified as aliens before the new constitution came into force on May 22nd, as well as the many young people who could not provide proof of residence.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) anyone born in Zimbabwe, who it is noted as an alien, should take to the registration centre a national identity document, an original Zimbabwean birth certificate and proof of residence.
Chairperson of the ZEC, Rita Makarau, told the press last Thursday that since the use of affidavits is now provided for in the new charter, they will be accepted as proof of residence.
Makarau added: “Measures have been put in place to have officers from the Registrar General’s office and from ZEC appointed as commissioners of oaths so that they can commission affidavits at the various registration centres.”
She also revealed that voter registration and the voter inspection will run concurrently, contrary to what had been expected.
“In other words we will not separate 30-day periods for registration and additional 30-day period for inspection,” Makarau told journalists.
She said that while the previous exercise had suffered from serious underfunding, the Commission had this time received $20 million for the current exercise.
Bulawayo-based SW Radio Africa correspondent Lionel Saungweme, said the registration started at a slow pace in the city, with officers at Milton Primary School attending to just one person in two hours.
“But to ZEC’s credit, this time there seems to be an effort to publicise the campaign. For example, there are visibly located posters in the city centre announcing the exercise and also encouraging people to register.
“The registration centres are well-signposted, and this morning, officers travelling in a van were going the suburbs announcing the exercise,” Saungweme said.
However, on the issue of aliens wishing to change their citizenship, Saungweme said there were concerns that while it may be relatively easier for those in urban areas to do so, those in rural areas will still face challenges.
“This is because not all centres will have the equipment to produce identity documents. So the aliens in farms and other rural areas may still find themselves being asked to travel to district offices,” Saungweme said.
The voter registration is expected to run until July 9th.
Meanwhile the state-run Herald newspaper, which usually signposts ZANU PF’s intentions, reported Monday that government was considering barring civil society groups from carrying out any voter education initiatives.
The ZANU PF mouthpiece said this was to prevent the groups from manipulating the electoral process by incorporating information carrying political messages, favouring certain parties.
The paper accused the democratic governance group, the Electoral Institute for Sustainable Democracy in Africa (EISA), of promoting the MDC-T party in its campaign material.
The Herald reported that messages such as: “Nyoresa uunze shanduko. Usasaririre (Register to make a difference. Do not be left out), resonate with the MDC-T’s change agenda
“The change mantra being insinuated in the messages is associated with the MDC-T slogan, ‘Chinja maitiro’, and highly-placed sources said in view of this, Government was contemplating limiting voter education to political parties,” the Herald report said.
EISA, which has vast continental experience relating to elections, has been contracted by ZEC to carry out a voter awareness exercise.
Since the year started officials from several civic groups, including the Election Resource Centre, ZimRights, and the Zimbabwe Elections Support Network have either been summoned by the police or appeared in court accused of conducting voter mobilisation without the permission of ZEC.