Tuesday 25 October 2022


THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) says it will not avail the voters roll through a portable electronic mode to protect it from possible tampering.

The decision has, however, riled electoral watchdogs which have described the move as a major blow to transparent polls next year, adding that it would be difficult to scrutinise the document ahead of the elections to avoid electoral theft.

The voters roll, which carries information of more than five million registered voters, is currently only available on hard copy.

Zec says it is yet to avail the document on an online portal which will be accessible only to those it would have approved.

Electoral stakeholders accused Zec of breaching the law by failing to avail the roll electronically because the hard copy is too voluminous to be transported from Zec to other places.

They feel Zec’s decision to dump the CD format of the voters roll was a deliberate tactic to frustrate analysis and eligibility of alterations made.  Stakeholders feel the voters roll can be distributed in “read only” mode.

Zec spokesperson Jasper Mangwana told NewsDay that the decision not to use CDs could not be reversed.

“A decision to do away with CDs was already made,” Mangwana said.

“That the CD could be available in a ‘read only’ mode) is not technically correct, a CD is not a data format that’s why you can write a video in MP4 format, pictures, word or excel. The CD is accessed just like USB/DVD. What is key is the data format of excel which can be duplicated/pirated, edited, tampered with and can be in the wrong hands since Zec cannot control access to a CD given to individuals or organisations.”

Electoral watchdogs, among them Team Pachedu, have criticised the voters roll after unearthing several discrepancies, including the alleged movement of 170 000 voters from their constituencies and wards, and creation of additional polling stations under unclear circumstances.

Early this year, Zec suspended some officials on allegations of leaking a copy of the voters roll to unnamed stakeholders.

Team Pachedu claimed that Zec’s stringent measures on the electronic voters roll were influenced by its scrutiny of the document.

“They dismissed us as a useless 'shadowy' group, but we are still giving Zec sleepless nights,” Team Pachedu tweeted. “We can confirm that the commission is now only resorting to hard copies of the roll in violation of the law. A page from Mudede’s book, five million entries will need a Bakkie to carry.”

But Mangwana disputed the claims.

“That’s not correct; Zec is on the ground doing its mandate. The voters roll is available on hard copy and soon in electronic format through a portal to adhere to the Electoral Act whose requirements do not allow unscrupulous elements to tamper with it and use it for commercial purposes. Zec will provide both hard and electronic copies as per the law and no more CDs for duplication, tampering with, or commercialisation of personal data.

The opposition Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) has since its inception this year piled pressure on Zec to avail a credible voters roll ahead of next year's elections.

CCC secretary for elections Ian Makone said: “This is very crazy. When did they amend the Electoral Act for them to be able to make such changes? You can't audit the roll on the portal. Which law is guiding them to make the changes? It is also of concern that even the hard copy of the roll is not easily accessible. It costs $1 per page and has over 1 000 pages and can only be availed after 30 days of purchase. One requires a pick-up truck to carry it from the Zec offices. The biggest question is why all that secretiveness on a public document? What does Zec want to cover up?”

Election Resource Centre legal and advocacy officer Takunda Tsunga said the Electoral Act prescribed that Zec should provide the voters roll in whatever format a person requested, either print or electronic.

“While Zec can implement security mechanisms on the roll, the underlying principle is that the voters roll must be analysable in its entirety in whatever format it is given. Providing a voters roll that cannot be analysed goes against the principles of transparency and credibility

“Zimbabwe Election Advocacy Trust executive director Ignatius Sadziwa said Zec should observe national laws or simply ship out.

“Sections 20 and 21 of the Electoral Act and section 156 of the Constitution compel Zec to avail the voters roll in both print and electronic form and to make the document easily accessible and verifiable since it's a public document. We view this attempt as mischievous and deliberate for reasons best known to Zec,” he said. Newsday


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