As voter registration apathy continues in Matabeleland ahead of the 2023 polls, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has gagged provincial election officers (PEOs) from releasing voter registration figures, CITE has since established.
PEOs in Matabeleland South and Bulawayo had in June disclosed that very few people were approaching ZEC offices to register as new voters with about 82 and less than 30 new voters had registered for the 2023 polls in the two provinces respectively from April when the commission resumed voter registration to then. The disclosure, however, triggered an uproar in the region with political parties blaming the electoral management body for the poor voter exercise ahead of the delimitation of constituencies and the 2023 harmonised elections.
The government has since set 31 December 2022 as the deadline for the delimitation of constituencies, which is essentially the redrawing of electoral boundaries based on the number of registered voters. ZEC has since warned that Matabeleland risks losing a number of constituencies as a result of low voter registration in the region.
When CITE this week sought the latest update on voter registration, ZEC PEOs from the three Matabeleland provinces – Matabeleland South, Matabeleland North and Bulawayo Metropolitan were no longer keen on releasing figures. “For now, there is nothing I can tell you because our offices are closed for fumigation,” said the ZE Bulawayo provincial elections officer, Innocent Ncube. “I am at home as we speak and will only be back in office on the 11th of August.”
When asked how voter registration had been progressing before the temporary closure of their offices this Monday, Ncube was evasive. “I can’t remember,” he said without explaining further.
Matabeleland South provincial elections officer, Rabson Nyoni said he was on leave when asked about voter registration in the province and referred CITE to the acting PEO, Sibangani Ndlovu, whose mobile phone could not be accessed. Matabeleland North acting provincial elections officer, Richard Sibanda was also evasive of figures.
“Part of the information that you need, I cannot just give it to you, a journalist that I don’t even know and have never seen and not knowing where you are going to take that information to,” said Sibanda.
“However, people are coming here and there to register because of this Covid pandemic. Registration is not going to stop though I am not going to give you any figures now.”
Pressed on why he was withholding figures Sibanda had this to say: “What do you need the figures for? For now there is a process that we need to follow. Some of these things are policy issues. We cannot just divulge those (figures) to anybody. We are just juniors. You have to talk to our CEO (Chief Elections Officer) to give a go-ahead so we can give you information pertaining to that. The CEO is the spokesperson of ZEC, otherwise, I may misrepresent ZEC.”
Sibanda added: “All I can say is that voter registration is ongoing and those who want to register should come forward and do so. The figures cannot make people move but what makes people move is the voter education toward the voter registration. Just tell people to go and register at ZEC offices.”
Source: Centre for Innovation and Technology