POLITICAL parties in Matabeleland are blaming the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), for the poor voter registration 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.
The electoral body recently disclosed that about 82 and less than 30 new voters had registered for the 2023 polls in Matabeleland South and Bulawayo respectively from April when the commission resumed voter registration to date.
Asked what they are doing to encourage their supporters to go and register for the ballot, political parties blamed ZEC for the way the exercise is being carried out.
“I think ZEC should be more proactive in advertising this registration thing,” said ZAPU director of elections, Patrick Ndlovu.
“They are just complaining but they are not visible on the ground.”
He said if ZEC was visible on the ground they could be seen at areas such as bus termini, supermarkets and wherever people are gathered encouraging citizens to register for the polls, adding if they were to do so many people would then register to vote.
“But they are just waiting for an election so that they make more money through allowances,” he bemoaned.
“I think ZEC is to blame because they are the ones who are supposed to be registering people but they are not on the ground.”
Ndlovu was quick to say the problem of people not registering for elections in Matabeleland was historical.
“The elections of Zimbabwe have not brought any benefits to the people of the Southern region,” he said.
MDC Alliance Bulawayo provincial spokesperson Swithern Chirowodza said ZEC has a big role to play in the voter registration exercise.
“ZEC needs to roll out voter registration kiosks all over Matabeleland otherwise it will be accused of acting on behalf of Zanu-PF,” said Chirowodza.
“The most important issue right now is access to voter registration centres.”
He said his party has since been supporting and encouraging its members to register for the polls, arguing ZEC figures on the people who have been registered were questionable.
Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) president, Mqondisi Moyo, told CITE his party was using every tool available to encourage people especially the youth to go and register for the polls.
“We reach out to them through their most preferred social media platforms,” said Moyo.
“We also engage social networks which enable the message to be conveyed inter-personally by word of mouth. The spirit to vote is watered down by unfair election practice in the country. The voice of the people through the ballot is hardly respected.”
He added: “Another issue is the imposition of candidates from outside Matabeleland. This makes people see no reason to vote since candidates would be foreign. There should be a strong voter education in Matabeleland. This should not be left to political parties only, government and civil society should be actively involved.”
Political analyst, Mkhululi Tshuma said Covid-19 restrictions were hindering political parties from mobilising people to go and vote.
“As such most political actors have resorted to using social media to try and encourage people to register,” said Tshuma.
“Moreover, ZEC which is supposed to be at the forefront, encouraging people to register, is also missing in action. We should have at least seen posters from ZEC in locations where people stay but all this is not happening. I can safely tell you that there seems to be some method to this madness. I know this falls in the larger plot to rig the 2023 elections.”
Tshuma said there was a need for would-be voters to be encouraged on the importance and the need to go and register to vote.
“People are more worried about bread and butter issues and it’s sad that electoral processes like registering to vote are not considered a part of bread and butter issues by an apathetic Zimbabwean populace,” he decried.
“Moreover, many Zimbabweans are slowly losing faith in electoral processes as a means to attain political change. When ZEC allowed Mwonzora to recall elected representatives and replace some of them with some unpopular figures, it was interpreted in many quarters as a clear sign that the voters’ choice doesn’t matter in Zimbabwe. What Zanu-PF wants is what it gets. It suffices to conclude that under such an arrangement, voter registration apathy will result.”
He added that information on the ongoing voter registration should be taken to the people.
“Civic society, political parties, ZEC and political activists must increase voter registration campaigns using all available media,” he said.
“ZEC must go to the ground and avail voter registration information to the public. Visibility of voter registration campaigners ought to be enhanced. If possible let voter registration be taken to people’s doorsteps.”