Relevant authorities must expedite electoral reforms and allow the election management body, Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), to apportion registration centre at colleges and universities to allow students to register to vote ahead of the make or break 2018 elections, firebrand Zimbabwe National Student Union (ZINASU) secretary general, Makomborero Haruzivishe, has said.
ZEC, in an effort to provide modern and transparent voter registration system, will later this year launch national Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system. The BVR system is part of the measures that are being taken to ensure free, fair and credible elections in a country with a history of disputed elections.
Biometrics refers to human physical and behavioural characteristics such as fingerprints, the iris, signature, face to mention just a few. These can be used to uniquely identify an individual. In BVR, a voter’s details (name date of birth, address etc) are digitally captured and stored alongside their biometric features (face and fingerprints) on a computer. The person’s biometrics face and/or fingerprints are then captured and compared to those in the computer database (biometric voters’ register). If there is a match, the person is verified, gets a ballot paper and continues to vote (manually) in a traditional way.
Haruzivishe said the election commission has for years disenfranchised students by failing to allocate registration centres at places convenient for students.
“Its pragmatic and progressive for ZEC, acting within the national interest, to allocate registration centres within colleges and universities so that students also register to vote,” said Haruzivishe.
The Constitution of Zimbabwe on section 67 (3) stipulates that “every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over eighteen years of age the right to vote”, however Haruzivishe said, ” ZEC technically deny this right by not allocating special registration centres for students.”
Zinasu is among the 14 organisations that signed a petition on electoral reforms that was submitted to Parliament of Zimbabwe in 2014 by a regional poll watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC).
Haruzivishe said the University of Zimbabwe (UZ) has an estimated student population of 16 000, the Midlands State University (MSU) has around 25 000 and as of 2016 the National University of Science and Technology (NUST) had over 15 000 full-time students which is almost the size of a constituency hence its crucial for the election management body to consider that.
“There should be a special arrangement that even if a student is at University of Zimbabwe but resides in Mutoko or Chendambuya he should register at the college but still be able to vote in Mutoko where he or she resides,” said the Zinasu secretary general.
Zinasu is among of the 14 organisations led by the, a regional poll watchdog, Election Resource Centre (ERC), and petitioned Parliament of Zimbabwe demanding the implementation of electoral reforms and expedite the alignment of the Electoral Act with the constitution.
ERC executive director, Tawanda Chimhini, said there is need for inclusive and wide ranging efforts towards correcting past electoral malpractices through enactment of electoral legislation and institutional regulations which conform to international best practices for democratic elections.
Chimhini said the Commission must consider principles of voter registration that have been flagged out by various observer missions and political parties such as accessibility, inclusivity, stakeholder participation, an informed public, security, comprehensiveness, integrity, credibility, and accountability.
The July 2013 polls were marred by a number of electoral challenges chief among them were issues around inadequate voter education, inadequate and inaccessible voter registration, a contested and inaccessible voters’ roll, a chaotic special voting process, lake of timely financial support to ZEC and independence of ZEC.