ERC Mobilize Lawyers Intervene to Assist Desperate Citizens
The Election Resource Centre (ERC) in collaboration with the Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights), have started to mobilise volunteer lawyers, who are deployed at various centers to assist potential registrants, who are in need of Commissioner of Oaths to sign their VR.9 forms for them to register to vote.
The two organisations act on the alerts that they receive from citizens through a call center they established recently.
The ERC executive director, Tawanda Chimhini said the two organisations through the call centers receives a daily average of 266 messages on Twitter, 25 calls a day, 85 WhatsApp messages and 43 text messages.
Chimhini said voter registration exercise should be comprehensive and accessible.
“Accessibility of the process must not be limited,” said Chimhini adding that “ZEC must allocate Commissioner of Oaths at some registration centres to assist the potential registrants.”
Human Rights lawyer, Jacob Mafume, who was deployed at the Remembrance district center in Mbare, appealed to other lawyers to assist to help citizens register to vote.
“We need all hands on deck, a simple thing like a commissioner can make this whole process unworkable,” Mafume said adding “We either drop the need for a commissioner to prove proof of residence and simply make it an offence to provide false information.”
Mafume vowed to assist whenever there is need.
“But I and other lawyers stand ready to assist all and sundry to allow them to register,” Mafume said.
Since the commencement of the ongoing Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process in September a number of challenges have emerged thwarting a smooth registration of potential registrants chief among them the shortage of VR.1 and VR. 9 forms and the shortage of Commissioner of Oaths at some registration centers.
Another lawyer, Simon Chabuka of the Magaya/Mandizvidza Legal Practitioners, on Wednesday assisted 40 potential registrants at Tangenhamo Primary School.
“Today I was here in Chitungwiza assisting citizens by signing their Vr.9 forms. At times people end up going back home without registering to vote. ZEC should avail commissioners of oaths at centers,” Chabuka said.
For the past two weeks ERC and ZimRights have been receiving an average of 22 calls a day with people appealing for assistance especially on the issue of Commissioner of Oaths and the shortage of VR.1 and VR.9 forms and other isolated cases of villagers complaining of village heads refusing to stamp proof of residence letters while some reported being asked to pay for the service.
The two organisations will this Saturday launch a national voter registration campaign in Chitungwiza at Chigovanyika shops in an effort mobilise citizens to register to vote.
In an effort to provide modern and transparent voter registration system ZEC proposed the introduction of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system to be used during the general elections penciled for 2018. The BVR system are part of the measures that are being taken to ensure fair and credible elections in a country with a history of disputed elections.
The ERC insisted on the relaxation of proof of residence requirements as it impedes accessibility of voter registration by potential registrants.