‘Biometrics bigger than elections’

Chief Reporter —
Biometric data capturing should not be limited to voter registration, but principally be done for population registration systems, an international expert has said.

The Namibia-based elections and governance expert told The Sunday Mail on condition of anonymity that biometric data should be used for other governance and development-oriented issues.

“We need to demystify this hullaballoo about biometric voter registration. It is a simple process just to capture data. Population registration systems are the tree, and voter registration is just one branch. The issue around BVR has become an unwarranted obsession. We are missing the point in that this voter registration is all about capturing people’s data.

“We need to broaden this issue. Such systems can be used for other purposes such as crime-checks, development planning and population updates. By focusing on BVR alone, you create a parallel system and process, and neglect population registration while focusing on voter registration, which does not go beyond Election Day. Yet, after the election, people will still endure the same struggles they had before.

“Elections do not take place in a vacuum, but in context. What is the point of doing something that is not sustainable and which has short term effects instead of looking at the long term?

‘‘There is a trapping around the issue of elections in that people are being prescriptive about some of these things without looking at the context.”

The expert continued: “Developed countries do not securitise the ballot to the extent you are speaking of in Zimbabwe. The folly of all this is that when all is said and done, election results are rejected. So, it is better to have the data captured through the biometric system and working for various purposes and not just elections.

“The reason why there is no talk of voter registration in developed countries is that they put all their information in one database.

‘‘You have an ineffective population registration system in Zimbabwe. So, mindful of that, why should you put US$50 million on a single process when you can expand that process for a broader approach minded over by your Home Affairs (Ministry)?

“It is laughable not to have indelible ink, but unlaughable not to have shortage of medicine in hospitals. An election is a superficial process to citizens in that when you go to the poll, you have everything you need.

“Citizens have everything they need when it comes to election time, but they have no access to critical things such as drugs. Elections must be a human activity. Let’s calm down and have debate on the tree and not the branch.”

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