Election Watch 10/2017
President Orders New Registration of Voters from 14th September to 15th January
In a proclamation gazetted today, 8th September 2017, the President ordered a new registration of voters in all wards and constituencies in Zimbabwe. The proclamation was issued in terms of section 36A of the Electoral Act.
The new registration will be done over four months, starting next Tuesday, 14th September 2017, and ending on Monday 15th January 2018.
The full proclamation is available here.
Effect of Proclamation
Although the proclamation does not expressly say so, its effect is as follows:
- Entirely new voters rolls are to be prepared for the 2018 general election.
The Proclamation does not mention biometric voter registration [BVR] but the Zimbabwean Election Commission [ZEC] has made it quite clear that this will be the method of registration for the new voters rolls.
- Everyone who wants to vote in the 2018 elections will have to take action to get themselves registered on a new roll.
- Voters who are registered on an existing voters roll will have to apply for re-registration on a new roll. As the law now stands this entails proving their identity to a voter registration officer, though they will not have to prove citizenship or provide proof of residence. They will however be expected to allow their biometric particulars to be recorded.
There is a problem here which will have to be sorted out before registration starts. The only way of checking whether those who claim to be already on a voters roll and produce their proof of identity, is by checking them against the existing voters roll. But ZEC has denied they have the complete existing rolls.
- New voters, i.e. people who are not already registered, will also have to apply for registration on a new roll. They will have to provide proof of their identity, their citizenship and their residence. They too will have to allow their biometric particulars to be recorded.
There are other legal problems with the proclamation:
It implies a total cut-off date for registration on the new rolls, but the Electoral Act provides for continuous registration until twelve days after nomination day.
If biometric registration is to start soon, ZEC needs to clarify a great number of issues on which the public is confused. There should be a clear procedural manual that they follow and this should be made available to the public.
The Electoral Act needs to be brought into line with the Constitution. Immediately.
Otherwise confusion and lack of transparency may result in a “Kenya” situation.