The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission [ZEC] issued an undated press release about Statutory Instrument 85/2017, Electoral (Registration of Voters) Regulations, 2017 governing voter registration. Statutory Instrument 85/2017 was gazetted on 21st July 2017 and is available on the Veritas website [link].
The full text of the recent ZEC press release is set out below and can also be downloaded here. It should be noted that its main focus is on the need for persons claiming registration to have “proof of residency” – and how affidavits can be accepted in the absence the prescribed documents.
ZEC Press Release on Voter Registration Regulations
The Statutory Instrument is a result of submissions by various stakeholders on the regulations including the critical one on what constitutes proof of residence. The requirement for proof of residence is a legal obligation and is not being used to disenfranchise any person who is eligible to register and vote. Voting in 2018 is going to be polling station specific. What it means is that a voter will be limited to a specific polling station where one’s name will appear, hence the importance of proof of residence as a requirement for voter registration.
In line with the Regulations, a document to prove residency may be in any of the following forms, among others:
- title deeds or a certificate of occupation;
- a lodgers permit;
- utility bill i.e. rates, water, electricity, telephone or credit store statement on which is shown the applicant’s name and physical address;
- a written statement from the landlord, parent or friend of the applicant confirming that the applicant resides at the stated place of residence;
- a statement made by the head of a school, hospital or other public institution where the applicant resides confirming that he or she resides at the stated place of residence;
- a statement by the applicant’s employer confirming his or her address;
- a confirmation letter by the relevant village head, headman or Chief;
- a confirmation letter by farm owner or resettlement officer;
- an offer letter;
- a hospital bill or a clinic or hospital card or an envelope with post office markings reflecting the applicant’s address.
Where one is unable to produce any of the listed documents, one can depose to an affidavit stating their place of residence and that affidavit shall constitute proof of residence.
The documents that one can use to prove residency are many and are not only limited to only those that are prescribed. Part of Section 23(5) of the Act states that prescribing of such documents shall not preclude a person from proving his or her residence by other means.
ZEC has come under fire from various women’s organisations who allege that statements made by the Chairperson of ZEC suggesting that women who do not possess property in their name or who receive utility bills in the name of their husbands may obtain a statement from their husbands in whose name the property is listed, which statement shall constitute proof of residence as regressive to women empowerment. The allegations are regrettable. ZEC was merely drawing a parallel and suggesting a means by which one can obtain proof of residence akin to the scenarios presented above where one can obtain a statement from a landlord, a parent, friend, employer, or head of an institution where that person resides.
ZEC’s intention in the forthcoming voter registration exercise is to ensure that every eligible voter is registered, women and youth included.
ZEC would like to assure the public that it remains committed to ensuring that every eligible voter is registered in line with the Electoral Law and encourages all eligible voters to ensure that they have the necessary documentation in place.
ZEC is determined to ensure that the registration exercise is an unqualified success.
Chief Elections Officer
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission
Some Reminders about Voter Registration
ZEC’s promised intensive mobile voter registration “blitz” will start later
The intensive voter registration “blitz” that ZEC has promised will not start until some time in October, after the remaining 2 600 BVR registration kits have been received from the suppliers.
This blitz will involve the use of large numbers of mobile registration centres to ensure that would-be voters will be able to register at centres much closer to where they live than ZEC’s district offices.
The voter registration being conducted now
The official launch of registration was on 14th September 2017 with some VIPs and invited guests being registered in Harare.
ZEC started voter registration for the general public on Monday 18th September but at its district offices only.
- Where are ZEC’s district offices situated?
The physical addresses of 63 ZEC district offices were notified in a ZEC notice published in the press Saturday 16th September.
- Should people who were registered previously [i.e., before 14th September 2017] register afresh?
Yes. Fresh registration is essential for anyone eligible to vote who wishes to be registered on the new BVR voters roll. The new BVR roll will be the only roll used in the 2018 general election. When it comes to the 2018 general election, previous voters rolls – to the extent that they are in ZEC’s possession, which is not clear – will have been archived and will not be used either in nomination courts ahead of polling or thereafter in polling stations on polling day.
- What documents are necessary for registration?
- A very important point for existing voters to note is that there will no special treatment, no exceptions, no exemptions, for existing voters, i.e., people who appeared on previous voters rolls used in previous general elections – or in by-elections conducted since the July 2013 general election. They will have to comply with the same requirements – i.e., use the same claim form and produce the same documents – as an 18-year old, or anyone else, registering for the very first time.
- Everyone seeking registration will have to complete a claim form – or if unable to do so himself or herself, request assistance by a ZEC official which must be duly given [Electoral Act, sections 24 and 25, as amended by SI 117/2017].
- The claim form must be supported by proof of identity, age of 18 or over and Zimbabwean citizenship – metal or plastic ID, waiting pass with photograph, or valid passport, indicating citizenship of Zimbabwe – and proof of residency. On proof of residency, the press release above outlines what is acceptable.
- More about residence affidavits
- There is a prescribed form which should be used.
- Affidavits have to be sworn or affirmed before a commissioner of oaths.
- It against the law for commissioners of oaths to charge for their services.
- ZEC has said that it would make arrangements for commissioners of oaths to be available at registration centres or for ZEC officers to act as commissioners of oaths – but this does not seem to have been put into practice at all centres.
To bear in mind
Initial public reaction has highlighted several problem areas, such as: registration for each person being much slower than expected; some BVR machines not working; no commissioners of oaths on site, etc. It is to be hoped that as the exercise continues the pace will increase. It would be a great pity should people end up disenfranchised because they cannot afford long waits.