Voter Registration Problems – Residence Affidavits and Commissioners of Oaths
Reports from CSOs monitoring voter registration have indicated that the process is being slowed down because people wanting to register as voters are not able to find a Commissioner of Oaths to stamp their affidavits of residence. Often people will have queued for hours, only to be told to go and get an affidavit signed by a commissioner of oaths – so they need to pay more in bus fares to find one and pay yet more to the commissioners of oaths who have been charging in spite of this being illegal; and finally they have to return to the registration office and queue all over again. There are reports of citizens just giving up.
Proof of residence is required for voter registration under the Electoral Act [though not under the Constitution]. The Electoral (Voter Registration) Regulations 2017 [SI 85/2017] [link] give a list of documents that constitute proof of residence, and go on to say that in the absence of any of these documents applicants for registration must produce a residence affidavit in the form prescribed in the regulations. Many people do not seem to have any of the listed documents so they must produce a residence affidavit sworn before a commissioner of oaths. This applies especial to rural villagers, urban poor and previously displaced people.
Residence Affidavits are an Unnecessary Hurdle
This problem could be done away with if the regulations were amended to remove the requirement that in the absence of other documents residence must be proved by affidavit. All the regulations need do is to require applicants for registration to state where they live in the application form [officially called a “claim form”] that every applicant must complete. A voter who falsifies his or her address in such a form could be charged under section 37(2) of the Electoral Act with making a false statement of fact in an application for registration (maximum punishment two years’ imprisonment). Producing an affidavit sworn before a commission of oaths is not necessary.
1. Amend the regulations
Veritas urges that the regulations be amended immediately to remove the requirement for residence affidavits. Regulations can be prepared and gazetted as law within a day in urgent cases. This is certainly a case crying out for urgent action.
Amending the regulations is essential if the Government is to fulfil its constitutional mandate under section 155(2)(a) of the Constitution, of ensuring that all eligible citizens are registered as voters.
2. Amend the Act through the Electoral Amendment Bill
In case ZEC and the Ministry fail to act –
- Veritas urges CSOs and other stakeholders and ordinary citizens to make representations to Parliament for an appropriate amendment to be made to the Electoral Amendment Bill that will shortly be introduced into Parliament. The Bill was gazetted on 18th September and Parliament has invited written comments to be made on the Bill and sent to the Clerk of Parliament.
The deadline for receipt of comments is Friday 20 October.
Comments can be submitted:
- by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com or
- by post or delivery to Parliament of Zimbabwe, corner Third St and Kwame Nkrumah Ave, P.O. Box 298, Causeway, Harare.
Requests for clarification may be addressed to Mr Johane Gandiwa, Assistant Clerk of Parliament, on firstname.lastname@example.org, or Fax: +263 4 252935, cell +263 -712 880010.
- Veritas also urges that anyone who makes representations to Parliament should copy them to their MPs – to ensure that MPs are made aware of the serious problems being faced by persons wishing to register as voters and how those problems can be remedied by appropriate amendments in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
- We also urge all Members of the National Assembly and Senators to ensure that when the Electoral Amendment Bill comes to Parliament the necessary amendments are made so that voter registration can be speeded up and made easier for all citizens.
In the Meantime
Pending an amendment of the Act or the regulations, Veritas suggests the following:
1. Distribution of affidavit forms in advance of registration
Members of ZEC’s staff and CSOs doing voter education could assist by distributing residence affidavit forms to everyone who needs them. The forms can be downloaded from the Veritas website [link] and the ZEC website under downloads – Form VR9.
2. Inform the public about the documents that can be used to prove residence
As mentioned above, the regulations list documents which applicants for registration can use to provide proof of residence, apart from affidavits that have to be stamped by a Commissioner of Oaths. These documents are:
- title deeds or a certificate of occupation
- a lodgers permit issued by the relevant local authority
- an utility bill,e. a bill for rates, water, electricity or telephone
- a credit store statement on which is shown the applicant’s name and physical address
- one of the above documents in the name of the applicant’s landlord, parent or friend or other person residing where the applicant resides, accompanied by a statement confirming the applicant resides there
- a statement made by the head of a school, hospital or other public institution where the applicant resides, confirming that he or she resides there
- a statement by the applicant’s employer confirming his or her address
- a letter by the applicant’s councillor, village head, headman or Chief confirming the applicant lives in the ward concerned
- a confirmation letter by a farm owner or resettlement officer confirming that the applicant resides in the ward concerned
- a land offer letter
- a hospital bill or a clinic or hospital card or an envelope with post office markings reflecting the applicant’s address
Note: Other documents can also be used to prove residence. Section 23(5) of the Act states that listing the documents in regulations does not preclude a person from proving his or her residence by other means
3. Designating ZEC officials as commissioners of oaths
ZEC officers at provincial and district ZEC offices are commissioners of oaths – but as these centres are often far from the registration points in the BVR roll-out, their services as commissioners of oaths are not readily available to applicants for registration.
Veritas has suggested to ZEC that they approach the Ministry of Home Affairs, being the Ministry responsible for the Justices of the Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act, to have all ZEC voter registration officers designated as ex officio commissioners of oaths.
Who are Commissioners of Oaths
Legal practitioners are not the only commissioners of oaths. Statutory Instrument 648/1983 [as updated] [link] gives a list of people who are commissioners of oaths:
Ex-officio Commissioners of Oaths for all districts in Zimbabwe
- Member of Parliament.
- Provincial Administrators.
- Legal practitioner.
- District Administrator.
- Government medical officer.
- Police officer of the rank of chief inspector or inspector.
- District social welfare officer.
- Senior immigration officer.
- Land surveyor registered in terms of the Land Surveyors Registration Act.
- Prison officer of or above the rank of Superintendent.
- Public accountant of three years’ standing registered in terms of the Accountants Act
- Under Secretary (Development) in the Ministry of Local Government and Town Planning.
- Chief Vehicle Inspectors.
- All public accountants and auditors registered in terms of the Public Accountants and Auditors Act
- Chief Immigration Officer.
Ex-officio Commissioners of Oaths for particular districts in Zimbabwe
|1.||Member in charge of a police station||District in which police station is situated|
|2.||Officer in charge of a prison who is of the rank of principal prison officer or above||District in which prison is situated|
|3.||Pharmacist and secretary of a
|District in which hospital is situated|
|4.||Maintenance officer||All districts within or partly within the area of jurisdiction of the maintenance court.|
|5.||Senior vehicle inspector||District in which the vehicle inspection depot is situated|
|6.||Mayor, councillors, town clerk and chamber secretary of the municipality||District or districts in which the city or municipality is situated|
|7.||Chairman and secretary of a town council||District or districts in which the town council is situated|
|8.||Chairman and secretary [of rural district council]||District or districts in which the rural [district] council is situated|
|9.||Chairman and secretary of a local board||District or districts in which the local board is situated|
|10.||Manager of a commercial bank registered in terms of the Banking Act [Chapter 188]||District in which the bank is situated|
|11.||District Housing Officer, Harare||Harare district|
|12.||Presiding officer of community court||District in which community court is situated|
|13.||Member in Charge of police post||District in which police post is situated|