Concerns have been raised on possible voter suppression by the country’s election management body, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) which recently released shocking statistics indicating it registered just 2 972 new voters in the whole of 2021.
The ZEC figures have been contested by several organisations who claim to have proof they helped more people register to vote.
In Bulawayo alone, for instance, CITE ran a Style Your Vote Campaign that started around October to encourage young people to register and 321 youths were registered in three weeks yet ZEC claims only 588 registered throughout the year.
Coordinator for the Save Magwegwe from Delimitation Campaign, Eric Gono, who launched a programme to push youth from the constituency to vote argued the ZEC figures especially for Bulawayo are not a true reflection of the people they mobilised between September and December.
“Whilst it is true that the response by young people is relatively low, those are not the figures. We registered more people than that. I didn’t keep all the records for Magwegwe but we did over 300 people before we started working with Project Vote. What made us lose traction in recording was merging with other projects. Then other initiatives were also done by others such as CITE, Project Vote and the MDC, surely at minimum Bulawayo registered 2000 people in the last six months,” he claimed.
A youth voter registration group, Project Vote 263, released a consolidated list confirming it registered 9 635 youths across the country, of which Bulawayo had 2 003.
Project Vote 263 Secretary General, Falon Dunga, said after concerns were raised by citizens of failing to easily access ZEC centres, they in June 2021 embarked on the provision of transport and mobility services.
“Fellow compatriots the table above illustrates the ground work we worked together targeting virgin voters in all the 10 provinces of Zimbabwe. We have offered 1,949 people to go to the National Registry offices dotted around the country to acquire birth certificates and national ID cards,” he said.
“We also have managed to transport 10 012 people to register to vote and from them only 9 635 managed to register. Some failed to register due to a lot of information gaps whilst other youths who are to turn 18 in 2021 failed due to that they haven’t reached 18 years during the ongoing registration period as ZEC is only registering those that are above 18.”
Dunga said assisting citizens register came with challenges.
“We learnt the fight for democracy and electoral accountability doesn’t come on a silver platter. We have to fight this war together. Project Vote 263 witnessed a lot of systematic challenges at registration centres throughout the country which we are going to share in a report to ZEC to improve the efficiency of ZEC in delivering this right,” he noted.
“We however faced a number of enigmas starting with the threats to our chairperson Allan Chipoyi and our mobiliser Mukapiko by members of Ruda police Station in Mutasa District in September 2021. Our director Youngerson Matete and our chairperson Chipoyi were again arrested in Gweru.
“The people that they mobilised to register to vote were chased away citing that transporting people to ZEC was a crime. It happened on November 16 2021. Despite all these hurdles we remain committed to assisting the people of Zimbabwe carry out their constitutional mandate of voting through all avenues at disposal.”
Women’s Academy for Leadership (WALPE) also publicly said it registered 175 women in Mutasa district of Manicaland alone in 2021 yet ZEC indicated only 117 women registered in the whole of Manicaland province.
“And we have the 175 registration slips from ZEC which prove that the women indeed registered as voters between August and October 2021,” said WALPE on its twitter account.
On his twitter account, ZEC commissioner Jasper Mangwana said there is speculation that “some people were offered mula (money) to register to vote and they re-registered and got money by just showing a slip.”
Mangwana continued, “We can’t add them twice, we have started verifying before making new registrations because we had so many duplicate registrations which were suspicious.
It was suspicious that people wanted the slips so bad that someone would register like three times at different ZEC offices in a period of three weeks. Tingakona kuva suspicious here pakadai (How can we not be suspicious in such a case).”
Citizens queried how there could be duplication of names yet ZEC introduced the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) technology in 2018, a computerised system.
Stakeholders have asked whether the BVR was done or if ZEC conducted manual registration first before entering details on the computer.
However, the ZEC commissioner, still on his twitter, said: “Numbers don’t lie. The blame game is myopic and polarising. We urge our stakeholders to complement us as we head towards the voter registration blitz in a bid to increase these numbers.
ZAPU National Spokesperson, Msongelwa Ndlovu, said the tragedy with Zimbabwe elections was it is a system designed to endorse and cleanse an illegality.
“If Zimbabwe is a crime scene, ZEC is the crime architect and ZANU-PF the beneficiaries, but we commend our vigilant journalists and citizens for continuing to expose these criminals. We urge every Zimbabwean to remain vigilant, register to vote, go and vote but above all, protect the vote after casting the ballot,” he noted.
MDC Alliance Bulawayo Provincial Spokesperson, Swithern Chirowodza, concurred the ZEC figures were false.
“We do not believe the figures that ZEC is churning out more so when there are rumours that it’s registering Zanu-PF members separately. In the first place the computation of registrants should be done by all contesting political stakeholders to reflect a democracy. The reason political parties are not in a position to rebut ZEC’s implausible assertions is because ZEC is like a military fortress operating under the control of a dictatorial Zanu-PF government,” he said.