ZEC under fire for shutting out voter registration observers

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has come under fire from political parties for allegedly failing to communicate a position regarding accreditation that will give them permission to observe the ongoing 10-day voter registration blitz.

The process of registering voters began on March 12, 2023, and will conclude on March 21, 2023.

On the first day of the blitz, ZEC officials refused media and election monitors access to statistics at voter registration centres on grounds that they were not authorised yet the electoral management authority did not call for accreditation.

ZEC also allegedly failed to provide a position on accreditation at an all-stakeholders meeting conducted in Bulawayo on March 9, 2023.

Officials at that meeting claimed they would have to liaise with ZEC headquarters.

“At our last meeting with ZEC, we asked about accreditation and observing but ZEC failed to answer. We raised this because political parties and other interested groups wanted to be part of the observers,” said the spokesperson of the Nationalists Alliance Party (NAP), Honest Njabulo Farry Sibanda.

Sibanda highlighted that the lack of a position by ZEC made it difficult for political parties to observe the voter registration process.

“It’s now hard to be observers if we are not accredited because by law we are not assigned to do that. ZEC failed to explain and Commissioner Ambrose, who was there that day, said if ready, they will gazette the accreditation exercise and the amount to be paid by those interested,” he said.

Given the short time constraint, stakeholders asked when that would be done, according to the NAP spokesperson.

“ZEC failed to answer that. So we can’t observe now because nothing was clear,” Sibanda said.

Sibanda went on to say that such failure to officially state a position was regrettable and represented ZEC’s failure to provide the voters’ roll.

“Maybe they are still modifying the voters’ roll but it’s hard to know the status of it. As NAP, there’s nothing we can do but to wait for them to finish up then we can conduct the voter’s roll inspection,” he said.

“This is when we’ll verify everything.”

ZEC is yet to officially comment on queries from CITE.

Mthwakazi Republic Party (MRP) spokesperson, Velile Moyo, stated that by refusing political parties to access registration information exposed how ZEC wanted to close out other contestants.

“We did not get any invitation from ZEC to accredit as observers, neither have we ever been contacted by them regarding voter registration, we also never saw any public call for such,” he claimed.

Moyo described these actions as ZEC’s unwillingness to respond to transparency in election reforms.

“ZEC should create a conducive environment that will allow political parties to approach them for any information. For that reason, they are making us doubt if the irregularities that often surround this voters’ roll have gone under reforms. As a party, we are not taking ZEC seriously,” he said.

“The whole strategy is a manipulation of the electoral process.”

The spokesperson further stated that MRP’s Matabeleland North leadership approached ZEC at their provincial headquarters last Friday to say their registration centres were placed far from people.

“Some people have to travel over 20 km to go register and the answer by the director at the ZEC Matabeleland North office was they had limited resources to come closer to people,” Moyo claimed.

“To us, that is a lame excuse by ZEC and displays their unwillingness to avail the right to vote for everyone. It speaks directly to their incompetence.”

ZAPU Secretary General, Mthulisi Hanana said as a party, they have accepted that ZEC is not as astute as expected.

“Generally, ZEC always has a bias to do everything shrouded in mystery and mysticism. That’s why we have not been given access to the electronic version of the voters roll under the guise that it’s some secret national document that must be protected,” said the SG.

Hanana claimed that ZEC seeks to preserve all of its processes, even from stakeholders, making free and fair elections run by ZEC impossible.

“However, as a party, we have made a resolution to contest elections and keep fighting Zanu until we prevail,” he said.

“We continue calling on all members, those apolitical, first-time voters and supporters from other political parties to go register and vote when the time comes. We are clear on who they must not vote for, for the betterment of Zimbabwe.”

Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) Bulawayo interim Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza said this blitz was done for the eyes of the public.

“ZEC had a short BVR blitz last year when civic society and political parties had previously called for the setting up of BVR kiosks in the townships. Therefore a blitz after the gerrymandering of constituencies is a little too late,” he noted.

According to Chirowodza, CCC had been mobilising people to register and was keeping its own records but was unable to verify those statistics.

“ZEC has been unable to give us the latest registration records, which makes it difficult for us to audit our own work. Accredited journalists will also not be able to get specific information regarding registration. ZEC is cagey,” he summed.

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