By The Solutions Tower Staff.
THE Government of Zimbabwe has through the independent electoral board, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), indicated that it will implement the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system ahead of forthcoming elections scheduled for 2018.
An investigation conducted by The Solutions Tower has however revealed that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) may be sitting on the job and therefore still has a herculean task ahead of next year’s plebiscite.
Information pertaining to how the BRV system functions is far from being work in progress, and particularly in rural and other remote areas where new technology has never been understood, let alone appreciated.
When the Zimbabwe Government announced its intentions to introduce a new, electronic voter registration system, the BRV for the 2018 elections, there were mixed views from various sectors, including from politicians.
The Worldwide held view is that if the BVR system is appropriately implemented, it presents a clear opportunity for Zimbabwe to spruce up its image, and show the world that elections can be held in free, fair and transparent manner.
The country, therefore, has nothing to fear at all.
Inside the BVR
The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) says the Biometric Voter Registration is “a system used to capture unique physical features such as fingerprints and facial scans for the purpose of identification, (with) biological and behavioural characteristics (being) stored in a database and used for identification of voters on polling day(s)”.
Zesn as well states that one of the main functions of the BVR is to gather important data which could be used to accurately identify voters. Zesn deserves commendation for its efforts in dispelling some of the misconceptions held by many about the BVR system – a role mainly attributable to Zec.
Zesn also states that voters do not vote electronically, but that the BVR system would only be used to positively identify voters. And voting would be done manually via the ballot papers. It is, therefore, expedient that Zec pulls a leaf out of the Zesn booklet when it comes to dissemination of elections related information and by so doing, the independent electoral commission would defray the bias stigma that many have come to associate it with.
Zimbabwe has since independence in 1980 portrayed itself as a democratic state.
But critics continue to point to the contrary, sighting cases of violence, intimidation, vote buying and rigging by the ruling party. The violent June 2008 presidential elections re-run did a lot to tarnish the image of the country, as it appears to have equipped critics of the government of Zimbabwe with enough ammunition to attack its human rights record.
Zimbabwe’s dark colonial past reveals that the majority indigenous people were permanently based in the rural areas. The main reason was that living conditions in towns discouraged rural to urban migration.
With the current harsh economic conditions entrapping the country over the years, Zimbabwe’s social fabric has also continued to disintegrate, leaving tens of thousands tracking back to rural areas, as they seek refugee from the harsh economic realities of towns and cities.
The result of the above has been a voter population skewed in favour of the countryside, the very people who seem deprived of information pertaining to how the BVR system runs.
In all fairness, therefore, Zec should plan and implement intensive voter education outreach programmes in rural areas, including forming partnerships with independent and credible organisations like Zesn and Zimbabwe Yadzoka.
Consequences of Delayed Voter Education Campaigns
Failure or delay by Zec to disseminate information will have a disastrous effect on its reputation as the country’s independent electoral board .Therefore; there is a need for the board to urgently attend to this part of its mandate.
There is also a possibility that voter education deprivation, whether contrived or not, could be perceived as a ploy to tilt the vote in favour of the ruling party. That is a position that civil society has always maintained; that voter education campaigns are a prerequisite to the introduction of the BVR system in Zimbabwe.
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