The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) hosted a Twitterspace Discussion on the topic “Identity Document Issuance: Effects on the Voter Registration and Delimitation Processes” on Thursday 27th April 2022. The major objectives of the meeting were to bring together a diverse array of opinions in a discussion on the identity document issuance, linking it to its connotations on the voter registration and the delimitation process. The meeting focused on the difficulties encountered during the processes of acquiring identity documents and their bearing on voter registration and delimitation processes.
Panellists were drawn from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) and civil society organisations and these comprised; theZEC Commissioner and Spokesperson Jasper Mangwana, National Association of Societies for the Care of the Handicapped (NASCOH) Director Raphael Bareyi, Women’s activist Hazel Jojo and National Association of Youth Organisations (NAYO) Team Leader MIsheck Gondo. The moderator for the discussion was Namatai Kwekweza from WeLEAD Trust.
Commissioner Mangwana highlighted that national registration documents issuance has been harmonised in some districts as the programmes are being run by two different entities namely the Civil Registry and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. He also attributed the challenges in the harmonisation of the processes to the timelines which were different for the two processes. Commissioner Mangwana opined that the issuance of IDs is not the only hindrance to Voter Registration, as the latter is an optional process. ZEC Spokesperson discouraged incentivising eligible voters to register as it compromises personal interests and has caused many duplications in the voters’ roll when people register more than once so that they can produce a voter registration slip to get incentives. He also castigated what he termed reckless and false reporting by civil society organisations, voter rigging allegations and fake narratives about the ZEC which have all contributed to voter apathy and negatively affects voter registration and the delimitation processes.
Commissioner Mangwana highlighted that ZEC has mainstreamed disability in their programming through the provision of targeted and packaged voter education for people with disabilities (PWDs), including material in Braille to ensure inclusivity in electoral processes. He also spoke about the ZEC’s increased social media presence and their media monitoring role during elections which has ensured that misinformation, mal-information and disinformation on elections is curtailed before it spreads.
Misheck Gondo brought to the fore various challenges that the youth are facing regarding access to documentation and hindrances to Voter registration which subsequently affect data for use during the delimitation process. He postulated that the IDs Blitz must not only be for elections but must be a continuous process since Identity Documents are a basic human right. He also observed that the current ID blitz is mainly focusing on issuing birth certificates and directing people to get IDs at the district offices. Gondo questioned the rationale of charging exorbitant prices when applying for national identification documents and yet Section 35 of the Constitution entitles all Zimbabwean citizens to acquire a birth certificate, national identity card and a passport. He concurred with Commissioner Mangwana that allegations about vote-rigging demotivate certain groups of people and discourage them from voting.
Gondo recommended the need to intensify voter education for youths to appreciate the importance of the right to vote, and to unlock other rights like employment (right to occupation) among other rights. In addition, ZEC needs to be financially capacitated so that they do their job efficiently, including increasing the number of voter registration centres across the country throughout the year. Gondo added that CSOs should abide by the laws when conducting civic and voter education. Government, quasi-government institutions and CSOs should all play according to the rules. He recommended that social media must be used constructively to mobilise young people to vote and must not be used to antagonise or steer violence or spread fake news and information.
Hazel Jojo highlighted challenges encountered by women in getting IDs, adding that acquisition of an ID is now being celebrated as an achievement. She spoke about the systemic corruption that exists in getting identity documents. She recommended that a country that has been independent for 42 years should go beyond celebrating obtaining a birth certificate or an Identity document and that stakeholders must continuously have a broader discussion about the importance of these in relation to electoral processes including voter registration and delimitation.
Raphael Bareyi highlighted the systematic and structural issues that need to be addressed to ensure improved access to identity documents among persons with disabilities, including those with mental challenges. He observed that PWDs in geographically marginalized areas and communities of interest are failing to exercise their rights in the voter registration processes due to the long distances they have to travel. Bareyi emphasised the need for awareness programmes on electoral processes in all the languages including sign language for easier understanding. He also recommended the need for further civic and voter education for caregivers of PWDs.
When the discussion was opened to the floor, several participants commented on the challenges being faced by different stakeholders in accessing Identity documents and how it impacts key electoral processes. A debate on the causes of voter apathy ensued, with some participants saying that the blame should not be put on civil society and political parties, instead, apathy is often caused by a violent political environment. The Twitter space was attended by 530 people making a total of 1 900 people who tuned in during and post the event.