The Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) welcomes the recent announcement by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) that it had received 2600 kits for Biometric Voter Registration (BVR).
The BVR process will be very crucial to the transparency, fairness and credibility of the forthcoming harmonised elections in 2018.
ZimRights has been training monitors, receiving citizen reports from across the country and mobilising citizens to register as voters through the #10×10 campaign, which was launched in Gweru on Friday, September 15, 2017.
As ZEC prepares to start a mobile voter registration blitz across the country, ZimRights has made important observations with regards to the pilot voter registration process that began on Monday, September 18, 2017.
ZimRights hopes that ZEC will use the period since September 18 as a learning curve in its implementation of the BVR exercise countrywide with notable attention being paid to the following critical observations:
- The pace at which voter registration has been happening was slow at some of the registration centres. As a result, people would wait the whole day. In some cases, those frustrated at the pace of the registration exercise ended up going back home. Such experiences of the BVR process by prospective registrants can result in apathy. The ability to register as a voter is a crucial step to the realisation of the constitutional right to vote.
- Some of the registration centres did not have signage to aid people to easily find them. ZimRights recommends that in addition to the information dissemination and distribution of civic education material about the BVR, all registration centres should have signage.
- In an effort to deal with the proof of residence requirement, many people preferred to use the VR 1 and VR 9 forms provided by ZEC and have a commissioner of oaths to stamp them. However, in many cases, the commissioner of oaths was not present to assist people. Some registration centres did not have the stationery and people had to photocopy them on their own and pay the commissioner of oaths. These costs incurred by the citizens in a difficult economic situation in Zimbabwe can be prohibitive to prospective voters.
- There is still need for all stakeholders to step up the information campaign to assist people with enough information on the dates, venues and requirements of the BVR process of registering as a voter.
- Transparency around the storage and servers of the data for the BVR process needs to be improved so as to increase confidence among different partners, including all political parties. The integrity of the BVR can be greatly dented by questions around the ultimate storage of data, hence the need for openness.
Through the #10×10 campaign, ZimRights is mobilising people to register as voters. ZimRights together with the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has trained 413 observers and human rights monitors in Harare, Mutare, Gweru, and Masvingo. An additional 450 will be trained in other parts of the country. The organisations have also been engaging commissioners of oaths to assist registrants at registration centres across the country. ZimRights will also be carrying out voter education and mobilisation to assist citizens to understand the BVR process and fully participate in it.
ZimRights Hotlines: 0773789874, 0733606797, 0718928611