HARARE – The aggressive door-to-door voter registration exercise Zanu PF is conducting in several Harare suburbs bodes ill for the crucial general elections set for next year.
Ominous signs on the ground, particularly the violence and intimidation accompanying the ruling party’s voter registration process, point to a potential escalation of political violence in the coming months.
Two weeks ago, MDC members were violently attacked by suspected Zanu PF youths in the Harare suburbs of Highfield and Mbare, raising fears that the political violence that blighted previous elections could confront us as we head to the make-or-break polls.
What is particularly spooking residents is the fact that Zanu PF officials are forcing people to provide national identity and phone numbers in their parallel voter registration exercise.
Sadly, the mounting political violence extends beyond Harare. According to peace-building and monitoring groups like Heal Zimbabwe Trust (HZT) and Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP), the Zanu PF-inspired violence is steadily engulfing many parts of the country where some traditional leaders are threatening to withdraw food aid from suspected opposition supporters who refuse to buy the ruling party’s membership cards. It is also alleged that these traditional leaders are also threatening to evict these opposition supporters from their villages.
Given that voter registration is the responsibility of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), one would have expected the electoral body to intervene decisively on this pertinent issue which will determine the credibility of the 2018 general elections.
Voter registration is a critical component of any election and it is important for Zec to show leadership on this matter. The electoral body has to demonstrate that it has the capacity and willingness to register all Zimbabweans in time for the elections.
It is not surprising that political parties are keen to influence the voter registration process. In previous elections, potential voters faced many impediments in their bid to get registered, particularly in urban areas. The slowness and the unreliability of voter registration in previous elections is one of the reasons why political parties are determined to ensure their supporters are registered.
Hopefully, the biometric voters’ roll will make registration more efficient. If the slow speed of previous voter registration exercises is maintained, chances are not all Zimbabweans will be registered in time for the elections. There are also genuine fears that starting the registration exercise in May could result in many Zimbabweans failing to make it onto the voters’ roll.
Given the above, Zec has an onerous responsibility to ensure the voter registration exercise captures all potential voters on time. More importantly, the electoral body must demonstrate that the exercise will exude maximum transparency.