TEMPERS are flaring after the High Court Tuesday blocked the release of electronic voters roll with critics claiming the ruling reflects lack of democracy in Zimbabwe ahead of 2023 elections.
Harare High Court judge, Never Katiyo ruled that the voters roll was a sensitive document which should not be dished out carelessly.
His ruling followed an application by Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) legislator, Allan Markham who sued the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) after it refused to furnish him with an electronic copy of the voter’s roll.
Markham mounted the lawsuit last year after having written to ZEC giving it an ultimatum to release the report within a week.
His letter was not responded to prompting court action.
Katiyo ruled that Markham had failed to justify why he needed the document, adding that he could pursue other remedies.
The judge also ruled that it was in the best interests of justice if ZEC remains the custodian of the document as it can be manipulated.
In reaction to the judgement, CCC leader, Nelson Chamisa complained on “why ZEC was making a public record a secret.”
“Dear ZEC & ED; Disputed elections are bad for our country. It’s impossible to have a credible & acceptable election without a credible & audited voters’ roll. Why keep public records secret? Why personalize and privatise public information & institutions? Let’s #fixthis now!,” wrote Chamisa on Twitter.
Chamisa’s followers however criticized him for not participating in demanding the critical document.
Government critic Hopewell Chin’ono said it was disheartening when courts sanction denial especially to a member of parliament.
“The dismissal of the Voters Roll case in the High Court by Justice Katiyo is a powerful political victory & tool for pro-democracy forces.
“It now demonstrates to the international community how courts are not reliable for this specific election instead of sharing past experiences,” he said.
“The opposition will be ready for the election when it has Polling Agents, Voters Roll, Youths are registered (huge voter turnout), it is allowed to campaign everywhere in the country (it removes fear). ZANUPF rigs elections, so the opposition needs to do what stops the rigging,” Chin’ono told Chamisa on Twitter.
Chin’ono claimed the move was a plot to rig the upcoming elections.
“That is part of poll rigging! The region, the continent and the rest of the world should be told the truth that we are not ready because the ruling party is working in cahoots with @ZECzim to rig the election!”
Presidential spokesperson, George Charamba applauded the judgement saying there will be no chance for anyone to manipulate the roll.
“Saka vachaita sei manje? The Electronic Voters’ Roll will be released at the appropriate time. No chance for your abuse and malicious manipulation vana @PacheduZW. Wanya tsotsi.”
Top lawyer and political analyst, Lovemore Madhuku told NewZimbabwe.com that the judge could be right.
“It depends on the purpose he (Markham) wanted the electronic version for.
“I think there is need to strike a balance between making sure that information contained on the voter’s roll doesn’t go out into the hands of wrong people and at the same time you want to facilitate all those citizens who may want that information, but you must be very specific about the right which you want to exercise. So it appears that the applicant had not properly set out the case for what purpose he wanted the entire voters roll.”
He added: “The voter’s roll must not be an item of pleasure or just wanting to keep a copy.
“All that is required is the numbers to see if the delimitation report tallying with the information if the voters are located at the place they claim to be located.”
Madhuku said the voter’s roll contains individuals personal details and must be safeguarded adding that Markham, a legislator can motion for its release in Parliament.
“The voters roll is a very important instrument in our democratic processes but there must be sufficient safeguards to ensure that people don’t use it for unrelated purposes,” said the lawyer.