The final 10-day national mobile biometric voter registration exercise begun yesterday, with some people excited that they will be voting for the first time this year.
The mobile voter registration exercise, which has a budget of $24 billion and ends on March 21, is being conducted by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.
Yesterday, The Herald visited several voter registration centres in Harare and found that in some areas, people turned up in their numbers, whilst others recorded low turnout. In separate interviews, the prospective voters thanked ZEC for affording them an opportunity to register for the forthcoming elections.
Mr Gibson Nziramasanga of Sunningdale, said: “I am happy that I managed to register, I will be voting this year for the first time. The previous blitz was conducted when I was in South Africa and I thought I would never get the opportunity again.”
Ms Alice Chaonza, who registered at Sunningdale 2, said the process was slow.
“I came here at 11am, but it is now one 1pm and the queue is actually moving at a snail’s pace. I do not know what is happening inside,” she said.
At St Peters Primary School in Mbare, those who wanted to register for the first time were being told to wait due to technical challenges, while those transferring their names to new polling stations were being prioritised.
At centres such as Gwinyai A Primary School in Mbare, people had turned up in their numbers, but the queue was also moving slowly, while at Mhizha A Primary School in Highfield, there were less than 10 people.
The situation was different at Chipembere A Primary School in Highfield, with people expressing satisfaction with the registration process.
“It is just a matter of minutes,” said Mr Simbarashe Chibaya. “When I came, there were at least 15 people ahead of me and they have already been served.”
In an interview, ZEC deputy chairperson, Commissioner Simukai Rodney Kiwa, said the delays in some areas could have been caused by equipment challenges.
“It’s unfortunate that you observed slow voter registration at Mhizha Primary School,” he said. “The Commission believes that it is one of those few isolated cases of malfunctioning equipment which do not reflect the overall picture on the ground.
“The reports countrywide indicate that the mobile voter registration started off very well with most of the centres expecting to register an average of 50 registrants on the first day.
“Low turnout in Harare and other urban areas may be due to the fact that most of the residents are already registered. For instance, there was very little activity at the ZEC Harare provincial and district offices on the first day of the exercise.”
In Bulawayo, scores of people yesterday visited various registration centres to get registered, while others were transferring from one polling station to the other after relocating. Among the new registrants in Bulawayo was Mr Nathan Gadzi from Njube suburb, who said he wanted to participate in electoral processes for the first time since the country obtained independence.”I was out of the country,” he said. “I have been a resident in South Africa and I only returned here in 2019. I participated in the first general election that was held in 1980. So, I left after the country attained independence and I have been living in South Africa ever since.
“I married a South African woman and my children are in South Africa, but I felt it was time to come back home. So, registering to vote will enable me to enjoy my full rights as a citizen of Zimbabwe.”
Mr Gadzi was registering at Egodini registration centre.
Another new registrant Mr Jonas Ndlovu said his religious beliefs had previously prevented him from registering to vote.
“I grew up in a Christian family and it was our belief that we should not participate in political issues, but now I have a different understanding. I have to vote as this is my right. I also want to make a difference with my vote,” said Mr Ndlovu.
Ms Sithembinkosi Zondo, who was registering to vote at Engen Fuel Station centre in Nkulumane, said her husband was the one who influenced her to register to vote.
“I was disinterested in political matters, but my husband is the one who pushed us to register to vote,” she said. “He said even the children who have turned 18 should register to vote and drove us here so that we can register to vote.”
Her husband, Mr Antony Mguni, said it was a constitutional right that no citizen should not take lightly.
He said Zec should be commended for extending the voter registration closer to communities.
“This is a welcome move for ZEC to extend this programme closer to the people,” said Mr Mguni. “I hope this is the same for those living in rural areas as rural communities are affected with such a process where you will find people travelling up to 15km to access registration centres.”
Mr Mguni said it was critical for the voter registration programme to be streamlined with the issuance of identity cards.
“I thought it would have been better if they coincided this process with the issuance of IDs,” he said. “This because we have children that have attained 18 years, but do not have IDs and they can’t register without them.
“It will be difficult for them to first queue at Msitheli and come back and register as voters which is strenuous.”
Another resident, Mr Keith Munyengeterwa, said he relocated and wanted to change his polling station. He said the mobile voter registration exercise enabled him to get a chance to do so.
“I’m here to change my polling station after I changed my place of residence,” he said. “It’s one right to register to vote and that right should not be taken away from anyone. So, people have to come in their numbers so that they can choose whom they think should lead them.”
Conclusion of the voter registration blitz will pave the way for ZEC to undertake various other activities, including opening the voters’ roll for public inspection, which will lead up to the elections.
ZEC has since tabled a $130 billion budget to conduct the polls, with the Treasury expected to start disbursing the funds.
This process will lead to other routine electoral procedures such as accreditation of observers and the media, production of the voters’ roll, constitution of the nomination court and establishment of the Multi-Party Liaison Committee.