WATCH: Last minute rush to register to vote
Nqobile Tshili, [email protected]
MISS Buhlebenkosi Dube just turned 18 and if President Mnangagwa proclaimed the election date before her birthday, she would have had to wait for five years before she could vote for the first time.
Miss Dube is among scores of citizens in Bulawayo and neighbouring Umguza District in Matabeleland North who on Monday and yesterday made a last-minute rush to register as voters as registration closes two days after proclamation.
She wants her voice to be heard as the country inches towards harmonised elections.
“The reason why I came to register today is because I recently turned 18. The reason why I want to vote is that I also want to exercise my right and have my voice heard in the governance of the country,” she said.
While the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Windsor Park Bulawayo provincial offices are usually quiet with little to no activity taking place, information on the imminent proclamation of the election day, seems to have awakened those who were in a slumber.
Hundreds have visited the offices hoping to register as voters to participate in the polls and long queues have characterised the day.
When a Chronicle news crew visited the offices, several cars were observed delivering potential voters, who had come to register to vote while others were parked to pick up those who had registered.
Political players from across the political divide were involved in bringing the potential voters to register as voters.
The electorate in Bulawayo has in the past been accused of voter apathy, but the recent turn out has even shocked ZEC officials as the commission had conducted several mobile registration exercises in communities to ensure citizens are registered to vote.
ZEC Bulawayo provincial elections officer Mr Innocent Ncube said for long, the electoral management body has been encouraging the public to register as voters to no avail.
“We are equally surprised because we are hearing people saying that the President has said he will be proclaiming elections’ on the 29th hence they need to register,” said Mr Ncube.
“The law provides that two days after proclamation the registration transfers and whatever a person is supposed to do in order to vote is closed. So political parties are trying to make sure that they garner as many registrants as possible.”
President Mnangagwa is yet to proclaim the election date, but an announcement is imminent.
“We have been telling people, we have been telling politicians as we were doing delimitation that the delimitation is determined by numbers, the more numbers the more people you have the more wards or constituencies you will have. But all this was not done,” said Mr Ncube.
“It’s only this time that people are realising that what they were supposed to have done way back is what they are doing now. As to what could be the real reason causing the last minute rush, I don’t know.”
He said over the past few days they have been attending to 150 new potential voters in a day, but the number increased on Monday.
Mr Ncube said he did not have the actual figures of those who came to register to vote since Monday.
“Since morning, it has been just like this today and yesterday. The numbers are quite big. As you can see its people everywhere,” said Mr Ncube.
Another new registrant Miss Beula Moya said in the past she did not bother about participating in elections but feels in this election she also wants to be heard.
Among those who were being served at the provincial offices are those who were transferring wards.
Mr Jabulani Ngwenya from Umguza said the delimitation exercise influenced his decision to change his polling station and visited the provincial offices to transfer.
“Where we used to vote was a bit distant from where we stay. So, since there is a new polling station closer to our home, I felt it was proper to transfer my polling station. So, I’m here to transfer my polling station. Previously we were voting at Springs, so the polling station has come closer to us,” said Mr Ngwenya.
A civil society organisation, Ekhaya Vote, which has been lobbying the public to register to vote said it was surprised by the number of people who have turned out to register as voters when the curtain is certainly coming to a close.
Ekhaya Vote spokesperson Mr Nkosikhona Dibiti said so many programmes had been rolled out and it was unfortunate that the electorate were not heeding the calls.
He said it was better late than never for some members of the public.
“We are very worried about the levels of political consciousness among the citizens which is very low. There was a voter registration blitz but people ignored. We need to take elections seriously and this means registering to vote, inspecting the voters roll and actually voting. There is no process which is better than the other,” said Mr Dibiti.
“We encourage those who have not registered to vote to take advantage of this window and register to vote. Those who have not checked the voters roll, they also need to check it so that they know if they are eligible and make necessary corrections.”
He said participating in electoral processes should not just end with electing leaders, but also make the elected officials accountable through engaging in local authority and Parliamentary consultation meetings.