COMMENT: More eligible people must register to vote

The Chronicle

SLOWLY but surely, the country is moving towards its five-yearly election season.

Authorities are putting in place the systems. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) is busy delimiting ward and constituency boundaries based on the results of the national census held in April and whose preliminary results were released in July. The Government has already allocated $101 billion to Zec under the 2023 national budget.   

Political parties are hard at work as well, positioning themselves to win the elections likely to be held in July or August 2023.

Voter registration is an ongoing exercise, so it is underway but we expect a national blitz in the next few months as the Government seeks to ensure that everyone who is eligible to register as a voter can do so and proceed to exercise their right to vote in the general election.

Appearing before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on Thursday, Zec Chief Elections Officer, Mr Utoile Silaigwana said about 70 percent of Zimbabweans eligible to vote have registered.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chief elections officer, Mr Utoile Silaigwana

“Countrywide, if you look at the statistics of the census, we have registered over 70 percent of people,” he said. 

“If you go by province, I know that in Matabeleland North province, we have registered over 82 percent of the potential voters. So strictly speaking the number of people who are not registered in the country but who are eligible, there are around 30 percent or less.”

About 5,5 million were on the voters’ roll for the 2018 harmonised elections and about 75 percent of them voted.

We think the registration coverage, at 70 percent is encouraging as we are still eight or nine months before polling date. However, we want our people to get their names on the register as soon as they can and not wait for the blitz. We all have to understand that voter registration is an ongoing exercise, just like one getting a national identity document or birth certificate. So why wait for the blitz when they can just walk into a Zec office today and in two minutes they have their name on the important register?

Zec must continue conducting voter education exercises countrywide so that this message, and others, reach the ears of all.   

Mr Silaigwana, in his presentation before the committee, stressed the need for the commission to be given financial resources for it to discharge its mandate, including conducting voter education to not only encourage the eligible to register, but also for the people to behave.

“One of the issues we have seen over the years is that if we do not conduct effective voter education several things will come up,” he said. 

“This country needs stability more than anything else for growth to take place. If our people are voter educated to understand their constitutional rights as far as voting is concerned they will tolerate different views and public opinion in terms of their political standing and then that will reduce the conflict in the country.  We think that voter education empowers people to think rationally and also reduce issues that might cause some misunderstanding within our communities.”

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec)

It has been noted that some of the political violence that has occurred in the country is down to ignorance among some of our people. They, however, must understand that there is no need to fight the next person simply because they hold a different political view from theirs. They must just respect divergent views noting that all of us don’t often think alike.  That is why some of us are academically sharp and others not, why some are short in stature while others are tall, why some are light in complexion others are dark. We are not really one person.  

Therefore, we urge everyone who is of the age and nationality to vote, to register to vote now and having done so, prepare to cast their ballots next year overwhelmingly and in peace.

Article Source: The Chronicle

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