Saturday, 5 November 2016

NEW VOTERS ROLL NEXT YEAR

Government will use a new voters’ roll in 2018 and political parties and other stakeholders will be availed with copies before the elections, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) said.

The electoral body’s acting chief elections officer, Utoile Silaigwana, told a conference in Bulawayo this week that Zec will use the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system to compile the new voter register — expected to be ready in 2017.

He said once equipment and finances are in place, the commission would be able to register voters across the country in approximately 15 days.

“We have plans to use the existing 10 000 polling stations dotted around the country to conduct the registration. This means that we will need 10 000 kits, with each comprising a laptop, camera, finger print machines and power generators,” Silaigwana said.

Electoral stakeholders were, however, sceptical of how Zec would embark on such an
ambitious programme when it is reportedly broke.


“Yes, Zec’s finances are not well at all but what we have done is apply to Treasury for the money and they did not say no to the request, although they did not commit themself on when they will give us the money,” Silaigwana said.

“With our budget constraints we might not be able to have a kit in every polling station, but then, what we can do is register voters in phases — where we travel from one part to another,” he said.

Given that there have been contestations over voter registration and the consequential voters’ rolls in previous elections, the adoption of BVR technologies could offer an opportunity to address issues of transparency in key electoral processes.

But with only months to go before the 2018 elections, participants were doubtful that Zec would conduct the new voter registration on time.

While there are several features that can be used in conducting BVR, Silaigwana said they would go for the simplest.

“As of now and for the 2018 elections, we will just concentrate on two features; facial and fingerprints. This will be complemented by your identity card.”

There were, however, concerns over BVR in that one cannot register if he or she does not have an identity card, hence the process might disempower eligible voters.

Zimbabwe Election Support Network director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said there is need for capacity building of Zec staff members who will be in charge of the BVR enrolment process.
“Zesn notes that training programmes and study tours to countries that have successfully deployed BVR will be helpful in skills enhancement for Zec secretariat.

“Zesn believes that there must be clearly outlined support mechanisms for data recovery and consolidation in the event of kit failures or thefts.
“There is need for all field equipment to be consolidated with the central servers and storage units to act as back-ups.”

Chipfunde-Vava said Zesn’s position is that the implementation of BVR requires transparency in processes such as tendering and procurement in order to enhance confidence, integrity and credibility of the process.

“Zec should pilot BVR in future by-elections as it prepares to introduce the system in 2018, the adoption of BVR will go a long way in enhancing transparency and integrity of the voter registration processes in Zimbabwe.

In an earlier interview Zesn chairperson Irene Petras said: “Procurement is one of the most critical steps in BVR deployment, therefore, there is need to ensure that adequate time is allocated for it. In addition, Zesn calls for a public tender process and public scrutiny of the decision-making process and engagement of the service provider.” Daily news

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