The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is said to be planning to block opposition political party technical experts from participating in the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) field test pilot project set to take place before the end of the month, with opposition vowing to defy the move, this publication has leant.
ZEC is set to begin BVR field tests from the 20th to the 26th of April and has officially invited opposition political parties to be part and parcel of the process.
Accompanying the invitation however ZEC is said have added that ‘no technical experts will be allowed’ in the process which has led NERA to implement a parallel programme set to equip their members with the adequate knowledge about the BVR kits.
Only ZEC invited observers will be accredited on the 19th and allowed to partake in the ‘Site Validation Test’ process for the three shortlisted companies set to provide with the BVR equipment to be used in next year’s elections.
“Following the opening of the bids for the procurement of BVR kits on 17 January 2017, ZEC shall conduct a Site Validation Test for the shortlisted bidders from the 20th to 26th of April 2017.
“The validation test is part of the procurement process aimed at testing conformity of the kits to specifications, durability and suitability.
“All invited observers taking part in this programme shall be accredited ….” Reads part of a letter written by ZEC to its stakeholders.
The shortlisted companies are still a bone of contention as ZEC is being accused of disregarding the law following the agreement between the commission and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), which the former threw out the window.
“ZEC has invited opposition parties to BVR field tests and has picked its three companies which are not the ones from the UNDP’s shortlist.
This comes after ZEC lost in court and admitted they were contractually obligated to honour the original agreement with opposition stakeholders to allow the UNDP to procure the kits.
“So it’s pretty clear, like the bond notes case, that government does not care about the law or its people. Zanu PF will do what they want,” said a source monitoring the situation.
This comes as no surprise, as noted by opposition parties, as they promise to go ahead with plans to have their teams of experts train and familiarize their members with the BVR kits and processes on the 19th of April at the NERA Headquarters, the same day ZEC will be accrediting observers.
NERA Head of Information, who is also the Progressive Democrats of Zimbabwe Policy Secretary, Mr Davis Jnr Mukushwa, says opposition parties are readying themselves for the field test and will be sending teams on the ground to monitor the situation.
“The teams from opposition parties are undergoing intensive BVR orientation with the team scheduled to meet tomorrow.
“ZEC’s denial is not surprising, they have done this before and they will always do it, though unfortunately sad. We however have to equip our team travelling there with the necessary technical competence,” he said.
“BVR is and will never be a panacea to the electoral mayhem in our country, but 2018 offers a rare opportunity to display what a united electorate can do to a regime that has been retaining power through a mediocre voter’s role,” added Mukushwa.
The source monitoring the situation concurred with Mukushwa saying the intended move by ZEC to exclude opposition technical staff in the testing process is the beginning of rigging of the upcoming elections, but they will not be quite about it.
“Zanu PF is preparing to rig the election but NERA will counter that. As we speak NERA has organised a workshop on the 19th of April with Biometric experts so that they acquaint themselves first with the Biometric kit before they go and confront ZEC in its own workshop that is upcoming,” he said.
Asked about the developments, NERA Spokesperson Mr Douglas Mwonzora said he had been away has no knowledge of such as they are awaiting accreditation by ZEC.
According to ZEC the Site Validation Test will begin with a briefing of observers at the ZEC headquarters on the 20th before a presentation of bidders on the 21st, then a laboratory test of hardware and software on the following day.
Harare Polytechnic will be the first field test stop on the 23rd with the training of voter registration operators which will then be followed by mock BVR registration field tests from the 24th to the 25th at Mabvuku High School and Murape Secondary School-Seke respectively. The 26th will be the ‘shock and waterproof’ test at the ZEC Headquarters.