CIVIC groups under the 32-member coalition, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), dissuaded political parties, Members of Parliament, Ward Councillors, and traditional leaders from unlawful conduct in the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process.
During a media conference in Harare at the Media Centre on Thursday, November 2, 2017, ZESN Board Chairperson, Andrew Makoni, spoke out against distribution of pre-filled affidavit forms to potential registrants and collecting of serial numbers from new registrants by some political actors.
Makoni said distributing pre-filled affidavit forms violated Section 8 of the Justices of Peace and Commissioners of Oaths Act (Chapter 7:09), which stipulates that persons taking an oath must personally appear before a commissioner.
“Thus ZESN is concerned by this practice which has fuelled intimidation of registrants who are given the pre-filled affidavits on condition that after registering they submit serial numbers on their registration slips,” said Makoni.
“These disturbing reports of pre-filled affidavits need to be investigated by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission and the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission and corrective action taken against offenders. It is critical that all potential registrants freely register in this important exercise.”
ZESN is the next organisation to speak against the practice, after the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), the Elections Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), among others, unearthed the malpractice in different parts of Zimbabwe.
The affidavit, also known as the VR9 form, is one of the several ways in which potential registrants can prove their residence for the purposes of voter registration.
Makoni also spoke out against intimidation of observers and denial of observers access to registration centres in places such as Chipinge Central, Epworth Ward 2 at Local Board Offices, Nyaradzai Hall in Ward 8 in Zvishavane, Lundi Hospital in Ward 10 in Zvishavane, Weleza in Ward 13 of Zvishavane, Ward 10 of Mwenezi West and Thekwane High School in Bulilima East.
Speaking at the media conference, ZESN Board Member and ZimRights Director, Okay Machisa, said registrants must know their polling stations to avoid being given wrong voting places for the 2018 elections on the polling-station based voter’s roll.
Machisa also urged ZEC staff to patiently assist prospective registrants in this regard: “I agree that there are incidences where people are posted in the wrong ward or constituency, or polling station. There is need to educate people that over and above identity documents, they need to know their nearest polling station.”
The civil society coalition made nine recommendations, including: daily posting of disaggregated statistics outside registration centres; standardisation of how BVR Ward supervisors treat observers; periodic updates from ZEC; media support for BVR; intensification of voter education; and easing of the proof of residence requirement.
“ZEC should facilitate the creation of Multi-Party Liaison Committees that will discuss issues related to political parties, actors and supporters adherence to the stipulated code of conduct during the registration period,” the statement read.