I’m sitting in the queue at the sole Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) Biometric Voter Registration centre in Harare, the nations capital. It is located in Mbare, a neighborhood a solid 15km from where I stay on the other side of town. It would take someone two or so commuter omnibuses to get here. There are many people present from across the spectrum of the Zimbabwean citizenry all waiting to register for the 2018 elections. This is my second day here. Yesterday was not a good day to be here.
By Tirivashe M.D.
Today an elderly woman sits two people over to my left. Amid some of the jovial chatter that has characterised our time here in a bid to pass the time, she whispers something that sticks with me. She says, “I’m doing this for you.” She goes on to say she knows she might not reap the rewards of an election that releases the nation from the poor governance of the current leadership, but, her vote might pave the way for a better Zimbabwe for us the youths of this era.
A man in his late twenties Julius is helping the older folks fill out their voter registration forms. One woman forgot her glasses, another is just too old to see the print on the paper. I wonder, if this is happening here, does it get easier in the rural centres?
A man sits here with his grandson. He’s number 88, I’m number 89 in today’s queue. We’ve been here since before 9am, waiting. It’s well after lunch but I haven’t seen either of them drink water, or have a bite to eat. Not even a candy. The boy is definitely hungry.
Also, no one has been to the bathroom yet. For those of us who had to abandon the registration center yesterday because of the confusion and chaos, no chances are being taken. Everyone stays put until they get close enough to the registration room itself. With tensions high, it would be easy for a small misunderstanding with either the city council security or police officers at the door and those at the head of the line for things to escalate and nobody wants that. All we want is to register to vote, and go home.
Yesterday, I over heard several women complain that their children would soon be back from school and would need to be fed, but because they’d spent all morning waiting, with no real progress expected as the day proceeded, they wouldn’t be able to get that done either.
A man comes back from the door and sits down on one of only three waiting benchs, disgruntled, and frustrated. He’d come here yesterday, but in the chaos that ensued couldn’t complete his registration. The waiting crowd had broken out into songs and chanting, demanding their right to registration. He could not be served. He’s been off work a second day now. Even though a ZEC official had assured him he’d be served promptly today because he’d been in the queue yesterday, the police officer at the door won’t let him through. He recognised him as one of the people who had contributed to the disorder by singing and chanting and tells him he’ll have to wait at the end of the queue. He complains loudly, and tells his story for all to hear, but takes his seat at the end of the queue. The police officer has won this round.
Depending on who asks, the v.r. 1 form is either not there or it is there. Limiting the number of forms handed out early in the morning means only about 100–120 people a day are served at the centre. That is of course, excluding politicians and sabvukus, chiefs, who walk in like the political celebrities they are, get registered quickly, and leave by different doors. Earlier that morning, former VP Joice Mujuru, surrounded by her security detail, walked past the waiting crowd and straight into the office with the biometric machine. 10 minutes later she left by the back entrance. I jokingly posted in a group how she had just undemocratically jumped the queue but it wasn’t received well. The point of the satire was simple tho: aren’t we all citizens?
Don’t we all deserve ease of access to this new registration process?
Finally, it’s my turn to get into the chair at the table on which sits this mysterious machine of which for reasons no one really understands there is only one of in this whole city. The man at the laptop capturing my information asks my ID number, my name, my ward and constituency. He quickly scans my passport and voter registration form and proof of residence. The machine has a camera which he asks me to look at and my picture is taken. I then scan all my finger prints and then, barely 3 minutes after I sat down, I’m done. I leave, hungry and tired but relieved that I’m done and don’t have to worry about this until polls open sometime next year. Before I drive out of Mbare, I sit and just think about how I had to wait 8 hours, for a 5 minute process.
A few days after my registration woes, fuel queues intensify across the city, wholesale stores are packed with people buying as much as they can while attendants frantically change price tags. A bottle of body lotion is almost $20. Customers elsewhere are being limited to one 2 liter bottle of cooking oil each. On the black market, the price of US$ cash has gone up to an almost unbelievable 50%. Everyone is talking about how this feels pre-2008. Not entirely surprising, but ZANU-PF has managed to murder the economy of a nation a second time. Considering the state of affairs, I do not regret doing what I had to to register early. The urban voter should not be discouraged, this election is important. We need to stop complaining about how bad things are getting in the country in our WhatsApp groups, and social media platforms and do the one thing we have the power to, and that is utilise our vote. It’s a common mantra you hear these days, be the change you want to see. And for a lot of us out here, this is the only way we’ll have our voices heard. We can’t continue to be the victims of unchecked corruption and poor governance. Register to vote Zimbabwe. It’s your right, and the time for change is now.
This article was first published on https://medium.com/@TsungaiThePoet.