By Buhle Tshavango.
The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) recently gazetted the statutory Instrument 85 (S.I. 85) which outlines new voter registration regulations ahead of the 2018 harmonized elections, however, despite progressive provisions in the document a number of loopholes have been called out for redress.
The statutory instrument which was gazetted in accordance with Section 192 of the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] provides nine fundamental provisions for voter registration namely; proof of identity and citizenship, proof of residence, registration offices and centres, procedure for registration, control of persons in premises used for registration of voters, voters’ rolls, inspection of voters’ rolls, certification of voters’ rolls, provision and cost of voters’ rolls and maps.
The document, however, lacks clarity on clarity on the location of district voter registration centres, giving a little detail on time and days when registration offices and centres shall be open to the public leaving it to ZEC’s discretion.
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) noted that there were also other discrepancies including the lack of clarity on the role of observers and political party agents in the regulations
“ZESN is concerned by the lack of clarity on the role of observers and political party agents in the regulations. Given that the role of observers is crucial in enhancing transparency of electoral processes, ZEC should explicitly state the role of observers and party agents rather than leaving it to the discretion of the voter registration officials”.
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) also reiterated on this point saying the oversight role of observers and political party poll watchers is obscure.
“Amidst such progressive adjustments to the regulatory framework for voter registration, the big question that remains unanswered is; “where are the observers and election agents?” as ZEC administers electoral processes”, questioned ERC.
ERC also noted that there was a need for clarity on the role to be played by police during voter registration process as S1 85/2017 did not specify and went on to say that such silence opened doors for potential conflict in the event that the police is later included to be present at voter registration centres.
“The ERC police have no administration role in electoral processes, their role must be confined to maintenance of law and order”, stated ERC.
ZESN recommended that the Regulations should provide for clear role of political party agents and observers for each registration centre within the polling district for the purpose of enhancing transparency, trust, confidence and accountability in the process as well as observation of tendering and procurement processes, training of registration staff, setting up of registration centres and other key electoral processes.