Sat. May 8th, 2021

African Elections

Before, during and after

Cleaning of Voters Roll: A Contentious Process in Zimbabwe

3 min read

2018 Biometric Voters Roll

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is currently conducting an ongoing process of cleaning the voters roll in preparation for the 2023 harmonised elections. ZEC was at the centre of a disputed election in 2018 that saw a Concourt ruling in favour of Zanu PF Presidential candidate Emmerson Mnangagwa being declared winner. 

A few weeks before the 2018 harmonised elections, the main opposition MDC Alliance made a last-minute about turn on its ‘No reforms No elections’ demands claiming they had employed anti rigging mechanisms.

ZEC in conjunction with the Registrar General’s office is periodically cleaning the voters roll to ensure that all elections are conducted using a clean voters’ roll. The process according to the commission involvesremoval of the deceased, adding of new registrations and deleting multiple entries on the roll.

AE News spoke to Election Resource Centre (ERC) Tawanda Chimhini who said, “The process must be done in accordance with the law. It must be transparent and inclusive to allow credible elections but ZEC is doing it on their own.” 

Chimhini’s sentiments were echoed by MDC Alliance Vice-President Tendai Biti who said, “The ongoing process of cleaning the roll has to be public and achieve a buy in from every single party to the electoral process but sadly there’s no freedom of accessing information from ZEC. If anything, Zimbabwe needs a brand-new Biometric Voters Roll on a matrix agreed by all stakeholders.” 

“The current legal framework is not solid enough but as ERC we are making sure ZEC follows election observer recommendations from 2018. Many stakeholders have requested for the full Biometric Voters Roll from the 2018 harmonised election but to no avail”, added Chimhini.

AE news also spoke to ZEC’s recently appointed Chief Elections Officer Utloile Silaigwana who said, “The Commission has always availed the voters` roll to political parties and other interested parties upon request and in accordance with provisions of Section 21 of the Electoral Act. Section 21 (4) of the Electoral Act talks of a reasonable time period and this is not a constitutional provision.”

“Cleaning the voters` roll is purely the preserve of the Commission as mandated by the Electoral Act”, added Mr Silaigwana. 

Speaking to AE News, ZANU PF Political Commissar Victor Matemadanda who doubles up as the Deputy Minister of Defence said, “We are happy with what ZEC is doing. It’s a constitutional requirement and as ZANU PF we put the law first before anything. As ZANU PF we will decide whether we are going to request for the Biometric voters roll in 2023 or not but as things stand were happy.”

Speaking on the diaspora vote Matemadanda said, “I subscribe to the one man one vote principle and so every Zimbabwean including those in the diaspora must be allowed to vote for as long as they fulfil the requirements of the law”

Prominent Constitutional lawyer and academic Professor Madhuku said, “The serious disadvantage and weakness with ZEC is that they are not transparent. They also need to set a timeline to the public when they want to start and finish this kind of process. As NCA party we failed to nominate some of our candidates because ZEC could not provide the Biometric Voters Roll before election.” 

MDC Youth Assembly spokesperson Sarkozy said, “I’m not aware the voters roll in being cleaned and in my view this process is child’s play. We are going to put pressure on ZEC and government to allow reforms to take place. Currently, ZEC is composed of military personnel and a clear overhaul of ZEC is needed. We will force them to the talking table and our approach will be confrontational but non-violent.”

The current socio-political economy in Zimbabwe remains highly polarised and deteriorating due to massive corruption by government officials and a contentious engagement by political leadership arising from a bitterly disputed harmonised election of 2018. 

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