The Sunday Mail
Prospective voters are required to produce physical proof of permanent residence for eligibility to register to vote, a shift from an earlier proposal that sought to enlist voters on the roll without producing residency documentation.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has over the past year been working on a raft of changes in the electoral system which saw the electoral body recently announcing plans to scrap the need for one to produce proof of residency during registration. Previously, voters were required to produce, to the registering officer, proof of residence in the form of electricity bills, council utility bills, phone bills or a signed affidavit from a local chief or landlord confirming one’s physical residence.
However, according to a ZEC draft voter registration Statutory Instrument which was circulated to election stakeholders early this year, voters were only required to affirm to a registration officer their physical address before being registered on the voters’ roll. The regulation read: “5. (1) For the purposes of registering as a voter, a voter shall be required to provide a residential address to be filled in on the claim form for registration and affirm, before the voter registration officer that: he or she resides at the address given, or the address so given is the intended address to be used by the voter for purposes of registration.”
ZEC has however made an about turn after objections from political parties, with prospective registrants now required to produce proof of registration before being registered as voters.
ZEC chairperson Justice Rita Makarau told The Sunday Mail last week that the amended proposed regulations, which will be promulgated soon, were now before Government.
She said, “ The voter registration regulations were drafted and forwarded to the Ministry of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs for the Minister’s approval in line with the provisions of section 192(6) of the Electoral Act (Chapter 2:13).
“Yes, the initial draft regulations that were sent to stakeholders by ZEC to solicit views did not require prospective registrants to produce any form of proof of residence.
“We then received representations from the various stakeholders to the effect that it is necessary for a prospective registrant to produce some form of proof of residence.
“Accordingly, the draft that has been submitted to the Minister (Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa) for approval has re-instated the position provided for in the 2013 Regulations.
“In other words, proof of residence is now a requirement.”
The development comes at a time when the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development has begun releasing funds to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to prepare for next year’s harmonised election.
Last Wednesday, ZEC signed a purchase agreement for the supply of 3 000 Biometric Voter Registration kits with Laxton Group, the Chinese company that won a public tender to supply the equipment.
Laxton Group was awarded the tender after it proposed a US$3,9 million budget to supply the BVR kits while another bidder, Demalog Identification Systems of Germany, which charged US$5,5 million.
While the initial tender was for 1 600 kits, the electoral body now requires 3 000 kits composed of 2 900 general kits and 100 districts kits.
Laxton Group has been active in Africa after it supplied 8 000 kits and instant Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) card issuance kits to Tanzania in 2015.
It has also worked in Guinea, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique where it reportedly supplied BVR kits, generators, batteries and other accessories for voter registration and elections.
Laxton Group’s system has also been used on identification cards in Malawi.
Justice Makarau said voter registration is anticipated to begin within three months, when the kits have been delivered.
“ZEC is on course with all its planned preparations,” she said.
“Currently the focus is on voter registration which is an important aspect of the electoral process and a prelude to all the other issues.
“We are currently receiving the requisite financial support from Treasury for all planned activities.
“ZEC signed a Purchase Agreement for the supply of 3 000 BVR kits with Laxton Group limited on Wednesday the 14th of June, 2017.”
“We expect Laxton Group Limited to supply the kits in terms of the provisions of the contract.
“Voter registration is expected to commence once the BVR kits are in the country.
“Delivery of the kits is expected within 90 days from the date of payment of the required deposit.”
The BVR kits procurement is part of preparations for the 2018 elections where voters will only cast the ballot at one polling station within a voter’s ward.
In an effort to manage the queues, ZEC says a maximum of 1 500 voters will be allowed per polling station.