Voter registration blitz off to a slow start as few people turn up

HARARE – A mobile voter registration exercise which got underway on Tuesday was off to a slow start, with few people turning up at the various centres around the country.

Teams from the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) spent much of the day chatting away as the scores that were expected to flood the centres turned out to be a trickle.

Zimbabweans vote in general elections in the second half of 2023. ZEC is using the decentralised voter registration exercise this month to give Zimbabweans an opportunity to register as voters, with the consolidated voters roll set to be used to redraw constituency boundaries during a delimitation exercise starting in August.

Turnout was particularly unimpressive in Bulawayo, which ZEC has warned could possibly lose two of its 12 constituencies owing to low numbers of registered voters.

Four centres visited by ZimLive said very few people had turned up.

At the Bulawayo Registrar General’s office – KoMsiteli – a tent was mounted outside the offices for easy access. At midday, ZEC officials said they had not registered a single voter.

The situation was the same at Barham Green Hall in Bulawayo South where officers waited for the flood that never came.

At Magwegwe Hall, ZEC officials were relaxed and chatting away, with very few people making the effort.

In Makokoba suburb, the registration centre at Lotshe Primary School had welcomed two people since morning – one who was changing their voting station and one registering as a voter.

Some officials said it was possible that some people would come later in the afternoon after attending to their fields.

At Msitheli, a ZEC official told our reporter: “We opened at 8AM but so far we have not attended to anyone. Even on the visitor’s book you are the first to register.

“Our voter educations teams are moving around informing the public about our presence here. We hope later during the day when people have finished their morning chores they will come.”

Bulawayo Progressive Residents Association chairman Ambrose Sibindi bemoaned the poor response.

“It’s sad that registration centers are empty. We urge our people who have not registered as voters to visit the centers and register. It’s particularly important for youths, they need to make use of this time and parents should be encouraging hem. If we don’t, we may lose a number of our constituencies which will mean reduced funding coming to the province in the form of Constituency Development Fund,” Sibindi said.

“Besides the CDF, we may lose other monies that government allocates based on voting numbers. It will also mean that the voices from Bulawayo in parliament will be reduced as well, which may affect the development of the province.”

In the capital Harare, turnout was also reported to be very low in keeping with the situation in other parts of the country.

By the end of the exercise on February 28, ZEC says it would have been to 2,700 centres. ZEC teams will spend an average two days at one location before moving on to other areas. On Tuesday, the first day, 210 centres were open.

In a statement, ZEC said heavy rains were presenting access challenges to some areas where it is supposed to register voters.

The electoral body said it may be forced to change its programme in affected areas.

“The incessant heavy rains which have caused flooding in low-lying areas present a potential challenge of personnel and equipment deployment in certain areas for the commission,” ZEC said.

“Already, flooding has been reported in the Chimanimani, Muzarabani, Mudzi, Chipinge, Chikombedzi and Beitbridge areas just to mention but a few.

“Depending on the situation on the ground, the voter registration teams have been advised to adjust their itineraries accordingly and revisit the affected areas once flooding has receded.

“The affected communities and other stakeholders will be informed of any such changes. The safety of all life must be safeguarded at all costs and the electorate as well as voter registration teams are advised not to take risks by crossing flooded rivers.”

Don’t miss out. Register to vote. Check the centre nearest to you and date: Phase 1: Mobile Voter Registration

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