Saturday, June 23, 2018

Voters’ roll fiasco exposes Zec credibility

THE failure by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) to avail the actual biometric voters’ roll to stakeholders has all but proved that the electoral body cannot be trusted to preside over a free and credible poll as a neutral player in the elections.
Stakeholders have a right to be disappointed because the voters’ roll is often regarded as the heart and soul of any election and its manipulation can swing the results of the poll.
The greatest shock emanates from the fact that the availed roll is just a list of names without the voters’ critical biometric data to lend the necessary credibility.
If it is, indeed, proved that those registered during the inspection of the roll are yet to be added, then that can only be described as scandalous and Zec’s claim that they will be added later is not convincing enough given that the elections are just a month away.
When the government decided to embark on the biometric voter registration last year, in a bid to construct a fresh register of voters to enhance the credibility of the July 30 polls, this was welcomed by all stakeholders as a bold step.
If this is subscribed to in spirit and letter, then it would make our elections credible. But the shadow boxing going on with Zec leaves one with a sour taste in the mouth.
The absence of pictures in the voters roll released by Zec is worrisome because it opens the roll to manipulation as the available data — names, date of birth, gender and physical addresses — cannot be married to the owner.
Although Zec’s argument that withholding the photos was meant to protect the voter by not indiscriminately distributing their data is sound, how then does one ensure the credibility of the system and the process?
By their own admission, the roll given by Zec to the parties was not “final”, which makes availing the roll a cosmetic measure because it is incomplete. What if Zec decides to use the incomplete role? Who will monitor them?
Given that the country’s past polls have been largely contested over the voters’ roll, stakeholders need to do everything necessary to remove all doubt and engender confidence in the electoral system by attending to these queries promptly.
The principles of voter registration include completeness and the hope was that Zec would release the final product, but, unfortunately, this has not happened.