On Friday the 17th of May 2013, the Parliament of Zimbabwe gazetted Statutory Instrument 68 of 2013. This piece of law contains regulations by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission- in line with the Zimbabwean Electoral Act- that govern processes of registration.
On Wednesday 22 May, I attended a huge civil society meeting of individuals and organisations allegedly working on elections and only 2 had seen, read and analysed the implications of that instrument to the conduct of elections. I am one of those who hadn’t read or applied my mind to this piece of law. Disappointing, yes, but tragic more like because it is through missing these fine details that we fail to interrogate the openness of electoral processes. It was through one of the 2 wise people who had read this piece of law that this idea came to me, to give a brief outline of some of the important provisions in this Act and a pseudo-analysis of the implications of Statutory Instrument 68 of 2013.
Accessing the voter’s roll
The law: Section 2 of the Act provides that an Electronic Voters’ Roll will be made available to anyone who wants it at the cost of US$5 per ward or $10 per constituency and the roll will only be available as a ward voters’ roll or a constituency voters’ roll.
Implications: This is somewhat of an improvement because previously the voters’ roll was available to the public at $15 per ward meaning that the national voters’ roll was available at a whooping $30 000. However, we currently have 210 constituencies in Zimbabwe. What that means is, for someone to have a complete national voters’ roll they must pay a total of $2100. Now the average Zimbabwean earns $300 a month. How on earth are they expected to fork out $2100 to pay for a voters’ roll? Some of you are probably asking, but why would an ordinary citizen want a national voters’ roll? Here is why:
i. Access to the voters’ roll enables citizens to inspect the roll and confirm and validate their inclusion given that being on the voters’ roll enables them to exercise their constitutional right to vote and elect the leaders of their choice. Citizens need to ensure that they are not missing from the voters’ roll, that their names are spelt correctly, that their details are captured aptly and that they are placed in the right constituency.
ii. Access to the voters’ roll enables citizens to detect irregularities that are currently being perpetuated under this whole veil of secrecy. For instance, there would be no dead people on the voter’s roll if it was readily available because the living relatives of the dead would notice the irregularity. Neither would there be more than 100 000 people, all born on the 1st of January 1901 if all citizens had access to the roll because such a blatant irregularity would spark public outrage. It would also not be possible to inflate the number of voters in a given constituency if every citizen could scrutinise the roll.
iii. The voters’ roll has useful details about population demographics that enable civic work to be done in a much easier and straight forward manner. For instance if you want to start a programme that benefits young women in peri-urban areas, through the voters’ roll you can know exactly which ones are the peri-urban areas, how many young women there are, where they are densely populated and where they are not and in so doing priority areas are easily identifiable. Besides civic work, the same information is useful for government’s social welfare agenda and I doubt very much that the roll is easily available to all civil servants within the Department of Social Welfare.
It is pretty obvious why the voters’ roll is a secret document: there is a bid to close out the public by those in power from influencing the transparency of voting processes and for as long as ZEC puts a price tag on the voters’ roll they are in cohorts with those who would want to steal elections through manipulation of the voters’ roll. That the roll is being sold is not only outrageous but also ridiculous given that its compilation was made possible through the use of public funds gathered from tax payers’ money?
Querying the voters’ roll
Section 3(7) of the Act provides that any objection to the retention of a name on the voters’ roll shall be charged at US$5 per name. What this means is that the ZEC is implying that they are NOT infallible, that they could NEVER make a mistake and that the voters’ roll is PERFECT. Therefore should any individual or organisation or political party have any reason to believe that a certain name on the voters’ roll should not be on the voters’ roll then they shall be charged if they want that name to be removed, even if they are ABSOLUTELY right and that name should NOT be on the roll. Here is a good example of how ridiculous this provision is:
Imagine that I get a copy of the voters’ roll then find that my grandfather who passed away in 2007 is still on the voters’ roll. Should I file an objection to ZEC stating that my dead grandfather is still on the roll and should therefore be removed, ZEC will make me pay $5.
In other words citizens are being penalised for their vigilance and attempts at ensuring accountability and transparency. Does this make any sense?
I must point out however that the Act is not all doom and gloom. It makes some things about voter registration very clear.
Identity when registering
For instance Section 5 of the Regulations makes it very clear that a driver’s license is not a valid identity card for purposes of registration to vote and that only the following identity documents will enable people to register to vote:
- A national ID card
- A waiting pass- this is a type of document with the photograph of the person named that can be issued in terms of the National Registration Act. It simply confirms that the person who has it has applied for an ID, has not yet had the ID issued and confirms when the actual ID will be ready for collection. This is probably not as useful anymore nowadays as it used to be in the olden days as most ID’s are issued instantly.
- A valid passport
Proof of residence when registering
Section 6 of the regulations also makes it clear that the following documents can suffice as proof of residence:
- Title deeds showing that you own the property
- A certificate of occupation of a specific property
- Any bill or statement that reflects your name on it. This could be a water bill, electricity bill, rates bill, telephone bill or credit store statements. So any statements from Edgars, Topics or such other chain stores telling you how much you still owe them for the clothes you bought is proof that you live where you say you live and it’s enough to get you registered to vote.
- A statement by your parents (if you live with them) or your landlord (if you are renting) or from your friend (if you also live with them) confirming that you do live with them. However you must also have either a copy of the title deeds or the certificate of occupation or a bill/statement from the address that you live at in the name of your parents, landlord or friend.
- If you live at a mine, school, hospital or such other institution then you must have a statement by the head of that institution confirming that you live there
- If you have none of these things then you can get a letter from your employer who can vouch for you that you live where you say you live because that is the address they have in your employee files
- Those living in the rural areas need a letter from either the headman or councillor or village head or the chief of the kraal from which they come
- If you live on a farm then you must get a letter from the farm owner confirming that you live on the farm
- If you live in resettlement areas then you must get a letter from the resettlement officer or produce an offer letter if you are a newly resettled farmer
- A hospital bill or a letter sent you via post but with stamp markings still on the envelope will work
- If all else fails then when you go to register you can ask to fill in an Affidavit also know as a V.R.8 Form
So get going with your Topics/Barbours/Edgars credit statements to register to vote and if they ask you where you got that from tell them: Because MaDube said so.