Harare – On Wednesday, September 20, 2017, the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) visited one of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) centres at the city council offices in Mbare in Harare. Scenes of frustration were evident, with hordes of people waiting for their chance to be registered as voters ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections, but because of the delays some gave up. Others had to leave to find something to eat as they were getting hungry as they had been at the centre since around 7:00 am in the morning. Before ZimRights and ERC visited the centre, frustrated people had sung in protest to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) staff. At midday, senior opposition officials came to monitor the process, including MDC-T national spokesperson, Obert Gutu, and MDC-T director of elections, Murisi Zwizwai. No ruling party Zanu-PF officials were seen. Below are some of the sentiments ZimRights and ERC gathered between 10:30 am to 12:00 pm.
Rueben Chikamveka, 47, Glenview resident
I came here with my city council bill from father’s house indicating my place of residence. We have the same surname, but they wanted me to sign an affidavit. What it basically means is that virtually everyone will need to sign an affidavit. They do not even have the forms in stock. We had to photocopy the affidavit forms for ourselves. The cost is coming to the citizens instead of the government. There was one commissioner of oaths, but he has since left. Just a little while ago people sang in protest.
Rudia Phiri, 63, Epworth resident
I came from Epworth at 8:00 am. We haven’t been served. I would want to wait, but I am hungry. I am a widow and I had to look for money to come here. Someone just came out of the station to give us the papers to photocopy and fill in. It is hard because I had to find money to photocopy these papers. I have children who are now old enough to register, but I left them at home because of lack of money for transport.
Cathrine Masvisvi, 42, Waterfalls resident
This is exercise of registering as voters is important to help us realise our rights as women. But we have not registered since morning and nothing is moving at all.
Christine Nyengere, 59, Epworth resident
I came here at 8:00 am in the morning, but I haven’t registered. We are just sitting here with the forms which we have been given through the window of the building and asked to fill in. In the morning I boarded a lift for one US $ 1. If I am are not served today, I will have to come back again tomorrow so I will also have to look for the money.
They have not done voter education. If a person in a rural area or urban area is assisted to vote how can they expect an ordinary person fill these forms without guidance. These forms are difficult to understand and they are in English. They should be translated into vernacular. Or they should just be asking a person the information as they enter it into a computer.
I came here at 7:00 am before they had opened the centre with my colleagues and I was told that I was number 9 in the queue. Up to now I haven’t been served. So I am going home to find something to eat. There are other people who are coming into the station using a different entrance. We don’t know where they are coming from. There is only one machine.
They said they will register only 75 people per day. I think they have registered just 10. This will make people fail to register. Some people have already gone. The process should have started in March. I came all the way from Highfields only to stand in the queue without knowing that I will be served or not.
It think that it is a deliberate attempt to frustrate people. They don’t even have stationery. I don’t think young people can tolerate waiting in the queue the whole day.
Through its #10×10 campaign launched on Saturday, September 16, 2017, ZimRights is mobilising people to register as voters across the country. As captured in the people’s voices at the Mbare city council registration centre, the BVR process is being affected by slow service by ZEC staff, unavailability of commissioners of oaths, lack of adequate stationary such as VR9 forms resulting in people making copies for themselves, and insufficient education about the voter registration process. To mitigate the problems, some of the citizens were assisting each other to make more copies and fill in the forms.