With the second and last phase of mobile voter registration coming to an end this Saturday, stakeholders have urged the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to extend the exercise which they feel left out thousands of would-be first-time voters unregistered ahead of the crucial 2023 general elections.
The first phase ran from February 1 to 28 and was characterised by extremely low turnout while the second and final phase kicked off on April 11 and registered an improvement in the turnout owing to the civil registry’s mobile documentation exercise which started on April 1 and set to end in December.
Stakeholders who spoke to CITE this week said ZEC should consider extending the mobile voter registration exercise arguing many young people are yet to acquire national IDs for them to qualify to register as voters.
“It’s wrong for voter registration to be closed,” said Mkhululi Tshuma, a political analyst.
“The first mobile registration closed when very few people had registered mainly due to the fact that many people had no identity documents. On the eve of the second mobile registration, the registry office started issuing IDs which was commendable. There are still challenges in the process as thousands of people, most of them youths, are yet to acquire national IDs.”
He said it would be wise for ZEC to extend the process considering it has left out many eligible people.
“There is no one denying the fact that the second mobile registration window attracted more registrants than the first,” said Tshuma.
“But this still falls short of the mark as there still remain thousands more who are still unregistered. All you need to do is follow the queues that are still forming in the mobile registration being done by the registry office. These are all potential voters that must not be excluded as far as voter registration is concerned.”
He added: “The allocated time wasn’t enough especially seeing that there have been many logistical challenges posed especially by lack of ID documents. We can’t talk of the time allocated without noting logistical challenges that have severely affected the process.
Effie Ncube, another political analyst said the exercise was coming to an end soon.
“The voter registration outreach programme is closing too early,” decried Ncube.
“It should remain open for at least another six months to give more time to those who are yet to register as voters. We estimate that there are thousands and thousands of people, especially youths, who are still outside the voters’ roll and everything, including door to door campaigns, must be done to bring them on board.”
He added: “Rushing to close is a bad idea. Some areas may as a result lose constituencies and with that a voice in Parliament.”
Dr Thokozani Khupe’s spokesperson, Ntando Ndlovu said ZEC should extend the exercise for maximum benefits.
“There is no doubt whatsoever that the exercise must be extended because the teams were not enough and therefore unable to cover all the wards,” Ndlovu told CITE.
“In some cases, there was little information on mobile registration centres. What is needed now are permanent registration centres in each and every ward. We have sampled various areas in Bulawayo and the two rural Matabeleland provinces; it’s clear that most unregistered voters failed to take advantage of the current exercise. This was mainly due to lack of identity documents and unavailability of information on mobile registration centres.”
Ndlovu added: “The allocated time was not enough; there’s a need to establish permanent registration centres in each and every ward. ZEC and other non-state actors must intensify voter education in all the villages and towns.”
Msongelwa Ndlovu, ZAPU spokesperson said the mobile voter registration exercise was too short to have the desired impact.
“Very few people managed to register as it was not only short but poorly advertised,” he decried.
“It is easy to conclude that it was yet another act of deception calculated to hoodwink the world into believing that the government is willing to get people registered. Otherwise, why would this exercise be carried out as a blitz?”