ERC raises legal question over bvr

By Nkosana Dlamini

THE Election Resource Centre (ERC) has warned of potential legal landmines lying in the wake of the country’s biometric voter registration (bvr) exercise which continues to run under electoral laws which remain unaligned with the country’s constitution.

At a Monday media briefing following the launch of the bvr mop up exercise by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), ERC executive director Tawanda Chimhini (pictured) said this threatened quality of the end product.

“…The ERC is concerned that critical electoral processes continue to be administered against the backdrop of an Electoral Act that remains largely unaligned with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“Being held on the basis of an electoral act which is being disputed and this affects the quality of the poll and freeness of polls remains in doubt,” Chimhini said.

The ERC boss also bemoaned lack of adequate information on the current bvr mop up exercise which he said has manifested in the low uptake of registration by citizens from Harare and Bulawayo.

Chimhini was also up in arms with ZEC which he said has blindly extended the period of the current bvr blitz without taking time to find out the reasons behind failure to register by the rest.

Cases of undocumented individuals failing to register, intimidation by supporters of certain political parties and perceived lack of confidence over registrants’ personal information continue to cast a shadow over the painstaking process.

ZEC has done little to deal with most of the concerns which the poll based group insists had potential to bring the poll management authority into disrepute.

The ERC said lack of adequate information around the location of centres for the current mop up exercise and inadequate voter education remained some of the hurdles that prevented an effective roll out of a process that is intended to register atleast 5,5 million locals by 8 February this year.

Chimhini said the December resignation of ZEC chair Rita Makarau has not restored any stakeholder confidence in ZEC.

He called on the strengthening of systems governing ZEC’s operations as opposed to allowing public institutions to be viewed through the strong personalities of their leaders.

Chimhini however warned the continued absence of Makarau’s replacement threatened ZEC operations as the acting chair did not have leeway to make far reaching changes to processes.

“The implications of not having a substantive chairperson are far reaching in that you have somebody who acts and chances of that person making substantive decisions are very slim.

“So, anyone who acts, normally they would want to perpetuate what has been there.”

Addressing the same media conference, ERC chair Trust Mhanda said they were worried the unstated reasons behind Makarau exit could force her successor to refrain from exercising any decisions aimed at sprucing up ZEC’s controversial operational culture, something he said could have a negative knock on effect on the 2018 poll outcome.

“If you do not know what was pinching the toes of your former chairperson, chances are that you may not wear the same shoes comfortably,” Mhanda said, adding, “if there is no chairperson now, then it means ZEC is not properly constituted…”

ERC called for the “immediate reform of electoral processes in particular alignment of electoral laws with the Constitution of Zimbabwe, including but not limited to ensuring independence of ZEC, extending the right to vote to all eligible Zimbabweans, creation of a political environment that allows citizens to freely participate in electoral processes and opening up our electoral processes for international scrutiny”.

Gary Murambiwa
the authorGary Murambiwa