A credible voters' roll critical to a legitimate election

Zimbabwe Human Rights NGO Forum

26 July 2013. 
 
The outcome of the forthcoming election heavily depends on the integrity of the voters’ roll and the credibility of the regional observer mission. Even though a host of other factors such as lack of media and security sector reform had a cumulative effect, the above 2 factors are the game changers.  Without a credible, transparent and accessible voters’ roll that is open to challenge, the whole election exercise amounts to ‘much ado about nothing’ and a cosmetic exercise in futility. In light of the above, it is therefore shocking that some political analysts are making this issue very light and accusing the MDC of being cry babies because of their complaints regarding the voters’ roll. 
 
The issue of the voters’ roll has even become an imperative now in light of questions arising concerning the impartiality and integrity of the observer mission. It is inconceivable to see how the observers will rise above the official statements and views of the institutions that sent them. In our previous opinion, we concluded that statements from both SADC and the AU almost amount to a public certification that conditions in Zimbabwe are conducive for a credible election. They seem to be paying a lip service the voters’ roll issue or ignoring it altogether. The integrity of an observer mission to a large extent depends on the liberty of the observers to critic, question, and if need be, arrive at different conclusions from others in their interpretation of the obtaining facts prior, during and soon after the elections. It would appear, and in our opinion, that, by neutralizing Obasanjo, David Nyekorach-Matsanga has vicariously issued a statement for the region that dissenting views will not be welcome and that observers must speak with a united official voice.
 
 In regard to the issue of the voters’ roll Senator David Coltart’s views exhaustively address the areas of concern. His statement dated 25 July reads, “Section 21(4) of the Electoral Act states "within a reasonable period of time after the calling of an election, the Commission shall provide, on payment of the prescribed fee, to every political party that intends to contest the election, and to any observer who requests it, one copy of every voters roll to be used in the election, either in printed or in electronic form as the party or observer may request."
 
The MDC has repeatedly asked the ZEC to provide us with a voters roll. Last Friday we wrote to the ZEC asking for a copy of the roll. Today we were advised that we may get a copy of the roll tomorrow but we are concerned that this will not happen.
 
A "reasonable period of time after the calling of an election" means just that. The election was called on the 13th June and 6 weeks have since elapsed - and yet we still do not have a copy of the voters roll. 6 weeks to supply a voters’ roll is not a reasonable period of time. Worse than that is the 5 days left before the election is conducted - that is a grossly unreasonable period of time left to study and use the voters roll.
 
Voters rolls are meant to be used by political parties the world over to analyse who is in particular constituencies so that they can be spoken to and encouraged to vote. That opportunity is now denied us. Furthermore in the Zimbabwean context where rigging has abounded in the past it is critically important that parties be given sufficient time to analyse and audit the voters roll. That right has now been denied us.
 
No satisfactory explanation has been given by the ZEC for their failure to comply with the law and to that extent its credibility as an organisation has been severely tarnished by this very serious breach of the law.
 
We can but hope that the voters roll in analyzable digital electronic format will be supplied as promised tomorrow”.

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