By A Correspondent- The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) yesterday triggered a storm after announcing plans to remove 35 085 names of deceased persons from the voters’ roll, two months after identifying only 22 000 deceased voters on the roll.
Zec’s new figures announced yesterday sparked a fresh public outcry amid fears that the figures were being “cooked up” to disenfranchise potential voters ahead of by-elections in March, and the 2023 plebiscite.
The uproar over Zec figures came barely a week after opposition political parties and civic groups challenged its statistics on newly-registered voters, after claiming that only 2 000 virgin voters were registered last year, but later revised the number to 2 971.
In a notice on its official Twitter handle yesterday, Zec said: “35 085 files will be removed from the voters’ roll because Zec has been notified that the registrants are deceased. Unless an objection to the proposed removal is received within seven days of the date of the gazetting of the notice. Please find notice and form of objection.”
Zec then attached a Government Gazette to the statement, General Notice 3 561 of 2021, dated December 31, 2021, where the electoral body’s chief elections officer Utoile Silaigwana said people whose names were appearing on the deceased list, but were alive, needed to lodge a complaint at the Zec offices within seven days.
“It is hereby notified in terms of section 33(4) read with section 27(1) of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13], that voter registration officers have reason to believe that persons whose names are listed in the First Schedule, and who were registered as voters for the constituencies, wards and polling stations listed therein have died,” Silaigwana said.
“The names of the person will be removed from the voters’ roll unless a notice of appeal is given to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission.”
Zec’s inconsistencies pertaining to the voters roll has resulted in calls for an audit before the forthcoming elections.
Opposition political parties have also called for the electoral body to provide them with an electronic voters’ roll to enhance transparency and accountability by the body.
Piers Pigou, a consultant for International Crisis Group, also weighed in on Twitter saying: “Zimbabwe’s voters roll needs to be audited independently. It is as simple as that when the election management body leaves so many serious questions unanswered.”
Last week, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) produced evidence that Zec’s figures of new voters were inconsistent.
Local civic group Project Vote 263, which claimed that it had facilitated registration of 9 635 new voters throughout the country last year, wrote to Zec chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba on Tuesday demanding an electronic and hard copy of the voters’ roll.
Women Academy for Leadership (Walpe), which claimed that it had registered 175 women through its 2,2 million votes for the women election campaign, also castigated Zec over its voter registration figures, saying they did not reflect the true number of people that registered during the whole year.
Zimbabwe Election Support Network chairperson Andrew Makoni said there was need for Zec to open the voter registration system to the public so that they could inspect it to promote transparency.
“It is very worrisome that Zec gives statistics that are inconsistent when the nation is heading for key polls. Zec is giving conflicting figures on the registrants, which becomes problematic on issues to do with transparency and accountability,” he said.
“Zec is currently under a crisis for failing to retain public confidence in its operations. It should open up their system for scrutiny and inspection so that political parties or other interested stakeholders are free to access the voters’
Opposition MDC-T also expressed disappointment over lack of credibility on the statistics being released by Zec.
“Zec has it all to do in order to convince the electorate that it is committed to conducting free, fair, credible and legitimate elections,” MDC-T party spokesperson Witness Dube said.
“It is disappointing that they seem to be recklessly throwing around figures on electoral processes without any logical explanations as to why their projections keep changing. This does not endear this body to the confidence of the electorate.”
But Zec insisted that despite the uproar over its inconsistencies on figures, it was satisfied with public confidence over its mandate.
“Contrary to the views on this platform (Twitter), the majority of registered voters have confidence in the electoral commission,” Zec tweeted.
“Zec assures potential registrants being targeted by the voter registration blitz in the next few weeks, all our valued voters who (are) already on the voters roll or have applied to be placed on the voters roll that barring any anomalies, they will be placed on the voters roll in time to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming elections.”-newsday