As part of efforts to complement the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in providing continuous voter education and enhancing citizen participation in key electoral processes; the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is conducting a series of virtual Provincial Community Town Hall meetings. The meetings are running under the theme, Voter Registration in Zimbabwe: Community Perspectives, Challenges and Opportunities for enhanced citizen participation. The meetings are part of ZESN efforts to sensitize citizens on the importance of active participation in electoral processes; to raise awareness on the voter registration process and requirements as well as to gather citizens’ expectations and concerns surrounding the voter registration process to formulate home-grown strategies to address the challenges in all the provinces.
On 7 and 15 September 2021, ZESN conducted virtual Community Hall meetings for Mashonaland West and Midlands Province respectively. In attendance were members of the community, community-based organizations, representatives from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), social emerging groups, youths, trade unions, women, the business community, People with Disabilities (PwDs) among others. Speakers were drawn from ZEC, CSOs representing PwDs, Youth, Women and independent opinion leaders.
Key issues discussed in the meetings included;
- The need for continuous broad-based civic and voter education to sensitize communities on the importance of citizens’ participation in governance and the electoral process was underscored.
- Young people implored ZEC and CSOs to embrace ICTS and increase the use of digital platforms and social media platforms to mobilize young people to register to vote in the 2023 harmonized elections.
- Participants called upon ZEC and CSOs to ensure that voter education campaigns are appealing to the youth through edutainment, music, podcasts and engagement of celebrities’ and the so-called ‘brand ambassadors’.
- Participants also discussed and highlighted that the low numbers in voter registration were mainly caused by long distances to provincial and district voter registration centres. Participants requested ZEC to increase and further decentralize voter registration centres in both rural and urban areas. Further participants encouraged ZEC to have a toll-free number to enable citizens who may have queries to get in touch with them.
- Some participants suggested that governance and electoral education should be part of the school curriculum so that citizen participation in democracy is nurtured in young people at an early age.
- Participants recommended that voter education efforts be targeted more in urban areas because turnout of urban people in key electoral processes remains low as compared to rural folk.
- Participants highlighted the perennial challenges that youths and potential first-time voters face in accessing National Identification, and that if not addressed many youths will be disenfranchised in 2023 elections.
- PWDs implored ZEC to ensure that voter registration centres are disability friendly and accessible to people on wheelchairs and that some IECS be produced in a format that can be accessed by PwDs in particular those virtually impaired or those who are deaf and unable to speak.
- Representatives from the different workers’ unions requested ZEC to be flexible on their operating time since voter registration is currently being done during working hours. They urged ZEC to consider voter registration blitz after hours and during weekends and to decentralize the process and consider even conducting mobile registration at Covid-19 vaccination centres.
In conclusion, a representative from the ZEC who was in the Midlands meeting encouraged participants in the meetings to register to vote and highlighted how important it was given the impending boundary delimitation process. The Mashonaland West and Midlands meetings were attended by 70 and 77 participants respectively.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network