By Buhle Tshavango
CIVIC society organisations (CSOs) have questioned the rationale behind the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s (ZEC) decision to allocate only 12 percent of voter registration centres to urban areas.
ZEC recently announced that there will be 9633 voter registration centres countrywide and of that number Harare and Bulawayo have been allocated 700 and 400 centres respectively.
While Harare and Bulawayo are the only metropolitan provinces in the country, they are also the opposition’s stronghold as compared to other provinces and this has seen some questioning if ZEC is not trying to frustrate opposition voters.
Contrary to Harare and Bulawayo, other provinces were allocated registration centres in proportion to the number of polling stations.
Elections watchdog the Election Resource Centre (ERC) questioned the criteria used by ZEC to allocate the registration centres adding that such electoral processes need to be transparent.
“Electoral processes, including the mapping exercise must be conducted in a transparent and inclusive manner. ZEC must be prepared to allow a public and stakeholder review of the proposed centres before finalisation.
“ZEC must clarify how they have arrived at the number and distribution of the registration centres to be used as polling stations”, said ERC.
According to the new constitution, elections must be conducted using only a voters’ roll compiled by ZEC, however, the country’s elections board is yet to compile the electoral roll.
ZEC’s efforts to compile a new voters’ roll using the biometric voter registration (BVR) system has received widespread opposition mainly due to the unclear tendering processes.
Other schools of thought are of the view that ZEC is working on behalf of Zanu PF to ensure that only a few people in urban areas are able to register for the 2018 general elections while giving rural population easy access to registration centres.
While opposition parties are resisting the registration centres allocation ratio arguing that it is meant to dilute votes in their strongholds, however, the majority of Zimbabweans are said to be living in the rural areas.
According to the detailed and final 2012 population census report, there are about 13 061 239 people in Zimbabwe and 67 percent live in rural areas while only 33 percent are in urban.
However this is not the first time that ZEC has allocated a few centres in urban areas, a similar pattern happened in 2013 which allegedly resulted in many urban dwellers failing to cast their votes.