Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC) leader Nelson Chamisa has hinted that his party will consider boycotting the 2023 elections if its concerns over the voters’ roll are not addressed. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has been in the eye of a storm after data experts exposed a number of irregularities in the voters’ roll.
Some of the anomalies unearthed by data analysts Team Pachedu include the movement of registered voters from their wards and constituencies without their consent. They exposed cases where people using the same address were being registered under different wards. In some areas, there are registered voters who used addresses of central business district offices, which have not been in use for some time, among other anomalies. The opposition CCC has called for an independent audit of the voters’ roll, but Zec has turned down the demands.
Chamisa told The Standard in an exclusive interview that if Zec failed to provide a credible voters’ roll, the party would be left with no option, but to withdraw from the polls. “We have been there (during the by elections) to test the environment and also to test Zec’s sincerity, but that test has left questions,” he said. “If there is no credible voters’ roll, we are telling citizens that it’s something that will be a deal breaker. “We will not allow an election that has no credible voters’ roll in this country. “There can’t be a credible election without the access to an electronic voters’ roll, a credible one that is audited. “The voter’s roll must be audited by all parties.”
Zec itself said it had picked up over 180 000 errors on the voters roll as of June 23. Independent election watchdogs said the figure was too huge, and could have a strong bearing on the outcome of next year’s elections. “We have written several times to Zec, and we have written a document, a very detailed document indicating where we have qualms with their conduct and attitude, but they have not been able to respond to that document,” Chamisa added. “We have also written to them about the voters’ roll, but they have not been able to respond. “They have to pass the integrity, professionalism, and accountability test. “More importantly they have to pass the independence test.”
Zec has, however, said it would set “reasonable conditions” on availing the voters’ roll on a platform only accessible to those approved by the commission to protect it against possible tampering. The hard copy was pegged at US$187 000, a fee, which again political parties said was too high. Zec chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana urged political parties that have any issues about violations of electoral laws to report to the police. “During elections, the Commission also establishes multi-party liaison committees in terms of sections 160B, C and D of the Electoral Act to resolve electoral disputes and allied malpractices in an amicable way,” he said.
“Aggrieved parties who observe violations of the code and feel that they are beyond the jurisdiction of multi-party liaison committees are advised to report such issues to the police, since such violations are deemed criminal offences.” Zimbabwe has a history of disputed elections, with the voters’ roll being at the centre of the disputes. Elections watchdogs and other opposition parties said elections without a credible voters’ roll were meaningless. MDC-T national chairperson Morgen Komichi said a credible voters’ roll determines a free and fair election. “That’s part of the electoral reforms that we are demanding. We do not want a disputed election,” Komichi said.
“There will be no legitimacy and the country will remain isolated internationally.” Political analyst Vivid Gwede said serious pressure, both local and diplomatic, must be exerted on Zec and government on the need for a credible voters’ roll. “The public needs to know that eligible voters, and only eligible entries, are on the voters’ roll,” Gwede said. “The roll is also important for other crucial processes such as the delimitation of constituencies. “Thus, the call for radical transparency with the voters’ roll is on point.” Zanu PF secretary for administration Orbet Mpofu said Zec has the responsibility to ensure stakeholders have access to a credible voters’ roll. “Zanu PF has never interfered with the process,” said Mpofu. “As Zanu PF, we can’t comment on the voters’ roll because we are aware Zec is still working on it and has not yet released the document.”