HARARE – President Robert Mugabe became the first citizen to register under the biometric voter registration (BVR) yesterday in what has enraged the opposition after the Zanu PF leader partook in the exercise in the comfort of his official residence — the State House.
Mugabe and his wife, Grace, were the first Zimbabweans to be registered bio-metrically by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), followed by his deputies — Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko — along with their spouses.
Mugabe last Friday ordered the new registration of voters in all wards and constituencies to commence on September 14 running up to January 15, 2018.
MDC secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora scorned the launch of the BVR at State House yesterday saying the country’s biggest opposition party had not been invited, suggesting the electoral playing field was not even.
He said Mugabe was supposed to be the last person to be registered if at all he was really a servant of the people.
“It is a fraud,” Mwonzora fumed.
“In the first place, the proclamation was wrong in that all the voter registration kits are not in the country and the proclamation has a cut-off date; and furthermore, people are still collecting their IDs after government today announced the process was free,” he added.
Mwonzora filed an urgent chamber application yesterday seeking to nullify the proclaimed dates for voter registration, arguing that Zec was unprepared for the process.
Zec chairperson Rita Makarau confirmed she and her team had gone to State House to register Mugabe — as the first citizen — to vote in next year’s crunch elections.
Her explanation came amid opposition protests that Zec was launching the BVR exercise at one of the presidential election candidates’ residence.
Mugabe and his ruling Zanu PF party are due to contest a crucial general election next year against a loose coalition led by his long-time foe, Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC.
Makarau denied that there was conflict of interest in Zec visiting the State House.
“We are here to make the first citizen register as the first voter,” Makarau said. “He is the president and the first citizen and that is all we are respecting. But all the other political parties, we invited them, they can also come (to the Harare International Conference Centre).”
Mugabe did not say anything.
The electoral body later launched the voter registration at the Harare International Conference Centre (HICC) after the State House event.
The commission had a torrid time explaining to aspiring presidential candidate Egypt Dzinemunenzva, who confronted Zec officials why he was not invited to the State House event.
In spite of being handicapped, resource-wise, Dzinemunenzva has contested in nearly every election since 1990.
While he attracts no more than a handful of supporters in the successive votes, this has not broken or shaken his resolve to take power from Mugabe, the only leader Zimbabweans have ever known since independence in 1980.
Dzinemunenzva was left fuming yesterday.
“I arrived here at 9am from Hwedza and no such communication was given to me,” he told the Daily News. “I confronted Zec officials but they told me that the meeting was for ministers and the president only and that if I have a problem with it, I should lodge a complaint.”
The State House event dragged on from around 11am up to 2pm, and later moved to the HICC for the official launch.
Upon arrival at HICC, Makarau apologised profusely to the waiting stakeholders.
“I want to assure (you) that this was something that was beyond our control.
“We had to launch the BVR process in two parts and the first part took longer than expected. But our sincere apologies,” Makarau said.
Acting Harare mayor Enock Mupamawonde — who was listed as one of the first 10 VIPs to register to vote — failed to be registered at the HICC because he forgot to bring his ID.
His gaffe left the auditorium in stitches.
He claimed Zec did not tell him to bring his ID.