By Watmore Makokoba
Election Resource Centre (ERC) says it has unearthed a voter suppression drive being done by the Registrar General’s office in issuing identity documents needed for voter registration.
The election watchdog say the drive is targeted at disenfranchising voters in urban areas and Matabeleland region which are generally regarded as opposition strongholds.
Also targeted are aliens whose allegiance is still a subject of speculation and were recently allowed the opportunity to register and vote courtesy a of a court challenge.
In a statement ERC said the RG’s office is deliberately delaying the process in other areas or turning people away who would have come to process their identity documents especially in Matabeleland.
“Through our call centre and accredited observers, we have unearthed a voter suppression drive by the Registrar General aimed at disenfranchising urban, Matabeleland and alien voters.
“This was confirmed by citizens who were denied, delayed or turned away from accessing identity documents, crucial for registering to vote,” said the ERC statement.
There is a huge number of people in Matabeleland without identity documents owing to Gukurahundi genocide which resulted in some of them being displaced while others lost both parents had no one to help them acquire the documents due to strict requirements by the RG’s office.
When the biometric voter registration (BVR) started, the RG’s office indicated that it was going to issue the documents for free and this was welcomed by many Zimbabweans however, many people have still failed to access the identity documents due to poor service.
“The development was embraced by many citizens, who had to finance and/or travel long distances to acquire the service, however, many citizens have failed to acquire ID documents owing to poor service delivery by the Registrar General’s office.
“One citizen reporter identified as Mr Zvikomborero Usayi requested the ERC shuttle service, stating that he had mobilized 200 young men and women in Hopley, Harare South, who needed assistance with IDs. Prior to contacting ERC, the group had individually visited the Registrar General’s office but failed to secure birth certificates and National IDs – a challenge attributed to the deliberate approach by the office.” read the statement.
ERC said it was important that the ongoing BVR process should conform to voter registration principles and international best practice, particularly inclusivity.
The election watchdog also revealed that it has since sought audience with Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede to compel him to immediately address this challenge as it is hindering citizen participation in BVR, and the upcoming harmonized elections