The 30 days mobile voter registration, which officially commenced on the 10th of June 2013 ended on the 9th of July 2013. However as will outlined below, the voter registration process saw a lot of Zimbabwean disenfranchised owing to failure to register as voter despite queuing for long hours at the registration stations. The Zimbabwe Human Rights Forum visited two registration centers in Harare on the last day of the registration exercise. Observations from these two centers, which is reminiscent of the nationwide experiences, shows the extent to which many Zimbabweans may miss the chance of participating in a historic plebiscite as shall be detailed below;
Hatfield – Hatfield District Office
At Hatfield District Office, there were long queues. The people at the polling station reported that, they had queued there for the past three days and yet still failed to register. They blamed this on the lethargy of the Registrar General’s staff who according to the people interviewed only assisted 30 (Thirty) people each day at a tortoise pace.
Even though there were still a lot of people still queuing patiently outside the offices, the Forum also observed that several others were giving up and left without registering to vote.
There was no violence at the registration station, even though the presence of people adorning party regalia was cause for concern. Nonetheless, about 5 (five) police officers were counted at the station and the queue seemed to be organized despite it not moving in at any meaningful pace.
Also of concern was the fact that, some politicians could be seen clearly gaining easy access into the registration stations without waiting for their turn in the queue. Their intentions for pacing in and out of the registration station were not clear, leading to fears that, the politicians who were adorning ZANU PF regalia could be facilitating registration of those whom they perceived as their supporters whilst the rest of the people stood queuing outside waiting in vain to be registered as voters.
Even though we did not wait until the station closed at 1900hrs as scheduled, by the time we left the station at 1100hrs, the majority of the people seemed dejected and de-motivated because of the pace at which the process was going along.
Malborough – Malborough High School
At Malborough High School there were long queues as well. The turn-out seemed to be overwhelming for the Registrar General’s staff of just about 10 (ten). By 1200hrs the police officer manning the station had managed to count over a 1 000 (One thousand) people standing in the queue, with several others coming in every minute.
As compared to the registration centre at Hatfield District Office, the queues seemed to be moving a bit faster but the staff was just too few to attend to all the people who were in the queue and others who continued to come in a bid to register to vote.In addition, there were also long queues witnessed of people trying to acquire identity documents.
A few individuals could be seen wearing party t-shirts but there was no suspicious movement of politicians in and out of the station, though some did turn up to observe how the process was going. There were no incidents of violence, however the crowd had swelled significantly and some were swarming the entrance into the registration station. However the police officers seemed to be able to control the crowd and to prevent them from forcing their way into the station.
The Forum acknowledges the intervention by ZEC to extend to the registration by a few more hours to enable the process run until midnight. However, this did very little help in as far as allowing all the people gathered at the station an opportunity to register as voters, because by then, the already over-worked Registrar General’s staff had reduced their pace drastically whilst more and more people were congregating at the stations particularly at the Center in Marlborough.
The Forum therefore notes with grave concern that, a significant number of potential voters did not the ultimately manage to register and will not therefore be able to exercise their right to vote in the upcoming harmonized elections set for the 31st of July.
In view of the fact that some of the aspiring voters were not able to register in time due to various factors ranging from the administrative process of acquiring the requisite documents like the birth certificates and IDs to inadequate voter education including information on the registration centers, the Forum, therefore humbly appeal to ZEC to consider extending the registration process by another week to allow the aspiring voters to register.
Date: 11 July 2013.