As part of their commitment to support democratic development and promote credible, transparent, and accountable electoral processes in Zimbabwe, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) and Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) observed the first phase of the registration blitz and shall observe the second phase of the BVR blitz on an independent and nonpartisan basis for all Zimbabweans. The joint observation effort serves to provide citizens and key stakeholders with accurate, independent, timely, and credible information on the BVR blitz process. ERC and ZESN’s further objective is to ensure the BVR blitz is transparent, inclusive, and accountable as well as follows regional and international best practices. In this effort, ERC and ZESN planned to observe the originally scheduled Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) blitz slated to begin in December 2021. However, in the weeks preceding the commencement of the blitz, the ZEC announced that it was postponing the blitz until February 2022 in order to allow citizens additional time to acquire national identity cards (IDs). The Registrar General planned to carry out a national ID card registration blitz for January and February 2022. Unfortunately, there was little mobilisation of citizens for the same during this time period and the Registrar General also rescheduled blitz to issue ID cards from 1 April 2022 to coincide with the commencement of the second phase of the ZEC voter registration blitz. Despite the IDs blitz not having been rolled out, ZEC went ahead to roll out the first phase of the BVR blitz throughout February, from 1 to 28, which will be followed by a second phase scheduled from 11 to 30 April 2022.
During Phase 1 of the BVR blitz ERC and ZESN experienced challenges securing accreditation to observe voter registration and in a limited number of cases duly accredited observers were not initially permitted access to registration centres and in others registration officials refused to provide duly accredited observers with information on the process. Overall, reports from ERC and ZESN observers from all 210 constituencies show that registration of voters took place across the entire country. There were a limited number of challenges experienced, such as some centres not opening as announced, observers being denied access to registration centres, or issues with BVR kits properly functioning, but these were not widespread. Observers also reported low levels of voter education and awareness raising in a number of provinces. Further, observers reported challenges within the broader political environment surrounding voter registration, such as traditional leaders and civil servants taking part in partisan activities and reports of violence and intimidation.
ERC and ZESN call upon the ZEC to release detailed statistics on the Phase 1 of the voter registration blitz, that includes the number of individuals registered per day per registration centre broken down by gender and including the number of persons with disabilities. This information should be readily available; such information is routinely provided by credible election management bodies (EMBs); and doing so is in line with the best principles of open election data (see https://openelectiondata.net/en/). Without this information, Zimbabweans cannot determine for themselves if Phase 1 of the voter registration blitz has met their expectations or whether additional opportunities are needed to ensure all eligible Zimbabweans have a meaningful opportunity to newly register or update their registration information.
Based on the conduct of Phase 1, ERC and ZESN make the following recommendations for Phase 2:
Provide an accurate list of registration centres and dates well in advance of Phase 2 so voters, political parties, civic organisations and observers can effectively participate in the process Beyond these recommendations, voter education is also urgently needed to make clear to Zimbabweans that they do NOT have until 30 April 2022 the end of Phase 2 of the Blitz, to register to vote or to update their registration information. Rather, voters can only register locally during the limited number of days registration centres are open in their ward. While the ZEC has not yet made the list of Phase 2 registration centres public, this likely means that voters for whom registration centres were open in their ward during Phase 1 have now missed out on any opportunity to register locally. Rather, unless additional opportunities are made available at the ward level, their only recourse is to travel to the nearest District or Provincial ZEC voter registration centre in order to register. As the ZEC itself has acknowledged. Few Zimbabweans have taken advantage of this opportunity due to the burden it imposes on the individual to register and exercise his/her fundamental right to vote.
Access the full statement here (196KB PDF)
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network