CIVIL society must continue advocacy work to force government to implement reforms agreed to during the constitution-making process, a local poll lobby group, has said.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In a position paper on voter registration methodologies, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) said while the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) had indicated its willingness to adopt the biometric voters roll method, the system could not solely be relied on to cure poll inadequacies.
“The timing of the first election in July 2013 did not allow for many of the necessary reforms within the legal framework, the security sector and the media fraternity to take place,” Zesn said.
“Civil society will need to continue its advocacy work on this matter in preparation for the upcoming elections.”
There were a lot of disagreements between leading political parties during the drafting of the Constitution adopted in a referendum in early 2013, especially over the contentious reforms of Zimbabwe’s security sector.
President Robert Mugabe’s Zanu PF party rejected calls for security sector reforms, describing the move as a western sponsored bid to destabilise the country.
Zesn said the reforms were important if Zimbabwe was to allay the fears of internal and international stakeholders, including Sadc and the African Union.
Sadc and the AU in their reports of the 2013 election, whose outcome was hotly contested by the opposition amid claims they had been heavily rigged, pointed to inadequacies of the voters’ roll as well as its timeous availability for use in pre-and post-election periods.
Zesn agreed with opposition political parties that argued the Electoral Act was still ultra vires the Constitution. However, the group added that “ZEC is preparing to fully transition into its new mandate”.
“As ZEC positions itself to assume responsibility of the voter registration process, the commission along with civil society and other key stakeholders must collaborate in evaluating the current system and proposing a solution to address divergences and challenges,” Zesn said.
“Given the current credibility deficit facing the voters’ roll, failing to employ a transparent and inclusive process would undermine the way forward from the onset.”
Since the turn of the century when a credible opposition to Mugabe’s rule emerged in the form of the MDC-T, elections in Zimbabwe have produced contested outcomes.
According to Zesn, ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau “expressed her desire to engage citizens on the possible adoption of a biometric voter registration system [BVR]”, adding it welcomed the move.
“Zesn has done its own research regarding the advantages and disadvantages of adopting such a system in the context of Zimbabwe and has now concluded that BVR is the best model alternative to increase the credibility of the voter registration process,” the lobby group said.
“While adopting a BVR system does not replace the need for establishing an effective and transparent voter registration method, the technology does add a much-needed element to achieving this goal.”
BVR technology provides for individuals to be identified through unique physical features such as fingerprints or digital photographs that are difficult to manipulate or alter.
The pressure group said “If planned and utilised correctly, the technology can increase the quality of the registration data and can easily be used to validate duplicates, which is one of the biggest problems impacting the integrity of the voters’ roll”.
However, ZEC has also indicated it does not have money and this is not helped by the fact that government is literally broke.
Mugabe’s government has also turned down funding from donor organisations arguing it would compromise election outcomes and could force ZEC to pander to the whims of external funders.