Community Tolerance Reconciliation and Development (COTRAD) has launched a massive voter registration mobilization campaign in Masvingo Province through online and offline platforms. The campaign is mainly targeting young men and women, especially those who are reaching voting age and therefore are facing their first opportunity to vote (#FirstTimeVoter). Broadly, the campaign also targets aliens and the older people who have not voted previously despite being eligible to do so, to go and register at their local Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) district and provincial offices.
The campaign is being unrolled through online television and radio programs, bulk messages, circulation of jingles and electronic fliers on whatsApp groups and other social media platforms and servicing of information centres with printed IEC content containing voter education material. While, COTRAD voter clubs members educate and mobilize their peers to register as voters through checking out if their eligible family members, neighbours, friends, workmates or even girlfriends and boyfriends have registered to vote. However, community mobilization meetings have been put on hold due to lockdown restrictions. The campaign also aims to explore voter registration requirements and procedures as stipulated by the Zimbabwe electoral laws.
Voter registration after the 2018 harmonized elections has been taking place at a sluggish pace, considering the fact that thousands of youths became eligible to vote after the previous plebiscite. In Masvingo only six people registered to vote in May 2021. Therefore, COTRAD has begun the campaign to educate young people about their role as citizens, their rights and responsibilities, the importance of voting, and how best to make voter choices and hold those they vote for accountable between elections.
Section 17A of the Electoral Act states that voter registration shall be conducted on a continuous basis so as to keep the voters rolls up-to-date. Therefore, every person claiming to be a voter shall be entitled, at any time while the voter’s roll is open, to lodge a claim for registration as a voter or for the transfer of registration as a voter. Aliens are also encouraged to register to vote in accordance with the electoral laws. The ZEC has been open for voter registration since the end of the 2018 harmonized elections except during the hard lockdown period.
The level of participation of youth in electoral processes is worrying despite the fact that youth represent over 60% of the national population. If too many young people neglect their right to vote, in turn, this can lead to them becoming a marginalized group. COTRAD shall keep on imploring ZEC to intensify voter mobilization and education programmes so that citizens, especially the youth can develop more interest in registering as voters and also actively participate in electoral processes.