We are already in the election season.
Political parties have started sprucing up their structures and campaigning for the 2018 harmonised elections.
Zanu-PF is leading the charge. It is holding youth interface rallies nationwide at which President Mugabe is interacting with members of the ruling party Youth League. He has staged eight successful meetings with them and is left with two more in Harare and Bulawayo. The party has announced that it is targeting five million voters next year.
On its part, the opposition is trying to come up with a coalition to challenge Zanu-PF. MDC-T leader Mr Morgan Tsvangirai and six small parties have formed the MDC Alliance. He has however so far failed to convince other parties to join and form a structure that can be broad enough to make much difference electorally. The adverse internal impact that has arisen over his efforts to form the alliance are already in the public domain. We have discussed them before in space. But it is evident that the opposition’s preoccupation for now is forming a coalition. As a matter of fact they are substantially behind Zanu-PF in terms of effective preparations for the elections.
In addition to politicians’ activities, the election management system is working flat out towards the same end. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has started the process of acquiring the biometric voter registration kits. In the same connection, the Registrar-General’s Office has also started biometric registration of people across the country, enabling them to acquire identity documents, birth certificates and so on. The Registrar-General programme is vital because one cannot register to vote if he or she does not have an identity document and that document is only obtainable from that office, not from Zec.
Zec has already trained some officials and will soon train more — the junior officers. It has also submitted a budget of $15 million that is needed to bankroll the voter registration exercise. A completely new voter’s roll would be used in next year’s election. It is the basis of the biometric voting system that will be used from next year into the future.
President Mugabe has proclaimed four months of voter registration starting tomorrow to January 15. This marks the beginning of the normal, continuous voter registration exercise but in the middle of next month Zec will roll out a nationwide blitz to register voters. They will run concurrently for some time.
“Voter registration, as you know in Zimbabwe, is continuous,” said Zec chairperson Justice Rita Makarau. “We are going to commence our continuous voter registration on the 14th which is on Thursday, but we will have our blitz or the outreach programme or the intensive voter registration exercise when we have the 2 600 kits next month.
“We then start the blitz, the outreach programme up to the end of December where in addition to the static (stations) we will go mobile and go to where the people are. We as Zec, will do our best to ensure that we reach each and every eligible voter wherever they may be by the 28th of December 2017. But those who would have missed our blitz are free to approach our static or district registration offices to continue registering until the elections are called.”
It is obvious that anyone who will not be registered in the new biometric voters’ roll will not vote in next year’s elections. Even if one was registered in the old roll, their name will not automatically appear in the new document.
Our people need to know these very important points and come out in their millions to register starting tomorrow. Zec hopes to have registered about seven million people in the new roll, up from around 5,8 million who were registered in the voters’ roll used in the 2013 elections.
We therefore urge all adult Zimbabwean citizens to take advantage of the process that is starting to get their names in the voters’ register. Only that will give them a chance to determine their destiny, to elect a president, councillors and legislators of their choice in 2018. It is their constitutional right to vote so that they are governed by people they like.
It is good that Zec and the Registrar-General’s Office have indicated that they will decentralise their activities down to the remotest village so that all those who are willing to register can do so without the trouble of travelling long distances to district capitals.