Murehwa: The Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and its partner Centre for Community Development in Zimbabwe (CCDZ) continued with their voter mobilization efforts in Murehwa on Friday. The meeting was part of efforts to provide adequate correct information to citizens in closed communities on the Biometric Voter Registration. The meeting was held at Zhombwe Primary School which is also Voter Registration Centre and is part of the Voter Registration Campaign launched by the two organisation in Kadoma on Wednesday 01 November 2017. A similar meeting was also held in Chinhoyi on Thursday 02 November 2017.
Speaking at the meeting CCDZ Advocacy Officer, George Makoni said; “we have heard numerous incidences where people were given incorrect information about the Biometric Voter Registration exercise by political parties. We are here today to demystify most of those myths and give you correct information and encourage each other to register to vote.”
The meeting learnt that on Thursday 02 November, ZANU PF held a meeting with citizens in Murehwa where they were told that the computers being used to register citizens by ZEC will be used to monitor every move that each person will make as well as record who people will vote for.
A number of citizens were already worried that their vote will not be a secret and that they were not comfortable with the idea of taking photos and finger prints and what their photos will be used for.
“Yesterday, we were told that we had already voted when we registered to vote, that this new system will take all the votes and give to ZANU PF. We were also threatened that those that attend civil society and opposition political activities will be banished from this village. Already there are two people outside this room who are recording names of those who attended this meeting,” said a participant at the meeting.
It is against a background of such myths being peddled by political parties coupled with the failure by the Zimbabwe Election Commission to undertake a comprehensive voter education programme that the meeting was held to give adequate correct information to citizens in rural communities.
The meeting also revealed that traditional leaders are charging citizens money in order to provide a proof of residence.
“Most of us here have not registered to vote because we do not have the money to pay the village heads to give us proof of residence, our village heads are demanding between 10cents and 50cents to give you proof of residence. Most of us are not employed and we rely on barter trade, we have no access to cash,” said one participant at the meeting.
“We are worried that ZEC has not been educating us on the new registration process, we have only seen the posters like the one outside written in English and we can’t understand what it says,” said another participant.
Citizens also complained that on Monday 30 October 2017, ZANU PF activists had tried unsuccessfully to disrupt a community meeting organized by ordinary citizens to discuss how they could approach village heads with regards to charges on proof of residence.
CiZC Programmes Manager Thulani Mswelanto told the meeting that there are over 10 possible ways that a person can prove residence at the registration centers and invited the police who informed the gathering that the police offer free services to certify affidavits.
CiZC and CCDZ are also exploring more avenues that can assist with ensuring that each citizen has a certified proof of residence.
As in most areas visited by the programme so far, the meeting also learnt that there is a significant number of residents who have no access to national identity documents and that some who have documents showing alien status are unable to pay the $5.00 required to get a new ID with citizen status.
Despite the Registrar General’s office deploying mobile teams to provide citizens with national identity documents most of the areas visited have not seen these mobile teams and are worried that they will not be able to register to vote by the time they have access to the documents.
In recent weeks CSOs have been raising concerns around the national identity documents registration process. The process seems to be divorced from the ZEC schedules, a situation that will leave most citizens without national identity documents and unregistered.
At the end of the meeting citizens were given information packs that included simplified voter education information written in vernacular languages and information on the location of registration centres as well as the voter registration procedures. CCDZ Community Action Teams were also tasked with mobilizing their communities to register to vote, monitoring the voter registration process [most of them are already accredited with ZEC] and to report any irregularities in the BVR exercise.
Source: Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition