Civil society escalates voter education

HARARE – Civil society has escalated voter education amid growing concerns over poor engagement of the electorate, with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights) and the Election Resource Centre (ERC) launching a campaign in Masvingo last Friday.

The campaign — against the backdrop of low turnout among youths, intimidation of citizens by traditional leaders and political players — comes as a precursor to the third phase of the newly-introduced biometric voter registration (BVR) exercise set to roll in the town next week.

Zimbabwe’s elections have been dogged by voter apathy, and in an effort to mobilise citizens to participate in 2018’s poll, the civil society organisations are holding road shows, workshops and even providing commissioner of oaths to certify the required proof of residences in different parts of the country.

ZimRights’ senior programmes officer Leo Chamahwinya told participants during a workshop to train voter educators in Masvingo that: “The hot topic at the moment is registering to vote. We should be at the stage were if a wife does not register to vote the husband should deny her sex and the other way round.”

“Mothers should refuse to give food to a child who is 18 years and above who has not registered to vote. Where the registrant will vote is up to them but there is no excuse for not registering to vote.”

Chamahwinya also spoke on cases of intimidation in which citizens are being asked to submit serial numbers of their registration slips saying while the request for serial numbers is illegal it only served to intimidate and the assailants could not use the information to establish where a person would have voted.

Intimidation cases have been reported in Honde Valley, Bikita East, Zvishavane and among other areas.

ZimRights executive director Okay Machisa said apart from workshops and road shows, the civil society organisations are doing radio and television programmes to spread credible information to communities.

“We learnt quite a lot of lessons from the first phase that has assisted us in taking different mechanisms in our effort to educate citizens about the BVR exercise,” Machisa said.

“Besides road shows we are doing #10 x 10  door to door campaign, #10 x 10 approach your neighbour, we are distributing fliers at intersections that lead into the Central Business District urging citizens to register as voters and citizens generally are motivating themselves.”

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