TI Z calls for fair distribution of BVR Centres
Thursday 14 September marked the beginning of voter registration exercise through the Bio-metric Voter Registration (BVR) system in Zimbabwe. This is the first time Zimbabwe is using the BVR Kits provided by Chinese company, Laxton Group Limited. The process which was certified by the President, Cde Robert Mugabe through proclamation No. 6 of 2017, comes amid an array of issues challenging the integrity of the 2018 harmonised elections. Although the BVR process has commenced with only 400 kits, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) reports that it will acquire 2600 more kits by next month. This situation explains the limited number of registration centres around the country which largely short-change Harare and Bulawayo residents who were allocated only 2 registration centres each.
Section 155(2) of the Constitution states that “ The State must take all appropriate measures, including leglisative measures, to ensure that effect is given to the principles set out in subsection (1) and, in particular, must – ensure that all eligible citizens, that is to say the ctizens qualified under the Fourth Schedule, are registered voters.”
The roll out of the BVR kits is also shadowed with discontentment by civil society and the broader opposition movement, particularly around the lack of transparency in the whole BVR process. On the one hand, contrary to ZEC’s claims that there was wider stakeholder involvement in preparing for the elections, civil society submits that it was locked out of inter alia access to monitoring the assembly of the BVR kits, their storage and the training of BVR master trainers. On the other hand, the opposition through the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) filed an application at the High Court on Tuesday last week arguing that the President should have stalled making a proclamation on voter registration dates before ZEC procures BVR servers which store data. This, they say is a violation of the new electoral agenda and a violation of the constitution.
TI Z is of the view that the limited number of voter registration centres, particularly in Bulawayo and Harare shows a deliberate attempt by ZEC to disenfranchise potential urban voters. We believe that this uncalculated allocation of registration centres is unrealistic and is inconsistent with the principles of electoral integrity. This arrangement gives rural voters an unfair advantage over their urban counterparts, when they are already required to only bring a letter from the village head for registration compared to urban dwellers who are required to bring proof of residents or a signed and stamped affidavit. TI Z also questions the logic behind embarking on the BVR before the full equipment required for the process is fully available. This situation makes electoral integrity vulnerable because it creates an opportunity for fraud, manipulation and malpractice.
TI Z proposes that ZEC needs to re-evaluate the process that was employed in allocating the registration centres to ensure that number of centers are commensurate with the number of potential voters in each district. We also believe that the haste by ZEC in rolling out the BVR can potentially compromise the quality, unattainability and credibility of the voter registration process. ZEC can only build public confidence and run a successful and credible election through preserving its independence, autonomy and boldness against third party interference.