Preparations for the staging of harmonised elections in the next five months are continuing at various levels.
Political parties, particularly the ruling party, Zanu-PF, are strengthening their structures ahead of the poll. They are also holding meetings here and there.
But much focus at this stage is on what the elections management body, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is doing in readiness for the keenly-awaited elections.
Key among the activities that Zec is doing now is the ongoing voter registration drive. It conducted a nationwide blitz that started on October 10 and ended on December 19, 2017. About 4,7 million voters took advantage of that process to register.
A mop-up exercise was launched on January 10 this year after it was noted that the turnout during the blitz was not as high as expected. It is scheduled to end on February 8. On Sunday, Zec released the statistics of all registered voters saying that five million people had registered from October 10.
“Total voters registered to date is 5 021 295. This figure includes figures from the static registration centres for the period October 18, 2017,” said Zec in a statement.
Zec said Harare Province had the highest number of registered voters at 1 345 818 but it is evident that, given the capital’s huge population, the number of people registered so far is not as high as expected. Midlands Province had more than 865 000 people registered by Sunday while Bulawayo had 400 000.
About 86 170 people had been turned away from registration centres after they failed to produce required documents.
The ongoing registration exercise is very important for all adult citizens who meet the requirements for one to vote in our country. Zec is coming up with a completely new voters’ roll given that our voting system is changing to the biometric. The new system involves capturing unique physical features of an individual, particularly finger prints in addition to the usual demographic data of the voter – the name, date of birth, gender, address and so on.
This is the first time that Zimbabwe will use the system, so Zec is compiling a new register of voters. This means that even though one’s name was on the old roll, he or she will not appear on the new one unless they register under the new system.
We therefore implore all adults who are citizens of this country and those who were classified as aliens but were born in Zimbabwe or those whose parents originate from any Sadc country to take advantage of the mop-up exercise to enroll under the biometric system. They should take with them their valid passport or identity card, long birth certificate, proof of residence and must be or more than 18 years of age.
Everyone who meets the foregoing criteria has the right to vote in terms of the Constitution. They must therefore claim their right by, firstly, registering under the ongoing exercise, and secondly, proceed to cast their ballots when on election day.
The right to vote gives them the opportunity to influence the governance of their country, the right to choose who will govern them as president, their member of parliament, their senator and councillor. It is their chance to determine how they are governed.
We acknowledge that after the mop-up exercise that is underway ends on February 8, people can still be able to register as voters at the traditional static points, at the registry offices countrywide, for example. This permanent service will be ongoing until a few days before polling and resumes after that. It is important for our people to acquaint themselves with the location of these centres, visit them at appropriate times with all the required credentials to register.
However, why should they wait until February 8? Why not take advantage of this temporary, more decentralised process that saves them time and possible travelling costs to reach the static points?
We implore our people to take advantage of the mop-up exercise rather than procrastinate with an activity as important as getting ready to determine their destiny. It is possible that if they wait until the current process is over and elect to go to the normal voter registration centres a few days before polling day there might be huge numbers of people there. We should bear in mind that this is a new registration and voting system so anyone who isn’t registered under it has no chance of appearing on the new voters’ roll simply because their name was there on the old register. So there is a possibility of congestion in the run-up to voting day.
There is still some time to go until February 8, some two weeks from today, which everyone who is not yet registered, but qualifies and is keen to exercise their right to vote, must utilise.