People wanting to vote in 2023 must have registered by August, says Chigumba

by Tulip Charowa

THE Zimbabwe Election Commission (ZEC) says the “safest time” for one to register to vote in the 2023 general elections is between now and August, as after that, registration would have closed.

ZEC chairperson Justice Priscilla Chigumba confirmed that voter registration for people intending to vote in by-elections being held on March 26 was closed on January 8, two days after President Emmerson Mnangagwa proclaimed the election date.

Chigumba said “the safest period that a person can register if they want to participate in elections in 2023 is from today’s date up to August 15, 2023, because we can guess based on the last election the next election is going to be proclaimed sometime after that date.”

This comes as ZEC is preparing to conduct two mobile voter registration exercises in February and April this year ahead of a constituency delimitation exercise expected to start in late August.

Zimbabweans vote in key elections next year.

ZEC had planned a mobile voter registration outreach last year but that was cancelled, with the elections body arguing that a lot of the targeted first-time voters were unable to acquire identity documents due to government failings.

Garsu Pasaulis, a Lithuanian company, was recently handed a tender to produce passports and identity documents by the government. On Monday, the company announced that production would commence this week.

Chigumba told reporters in Victoria Falls on Thursday that they would narrow the distance travelled by prospective voters with two outreach programmes this year.

“The mobile registration exercise will now be conducted in two phases. The first phase will run from February 1 to February 28, 2022. The second will run from April 11 to April 30, 2022.

“Our stakeholders should note that deployments will be done per constituency with voter education preceding the programme to encourage prospective registrants to participate,” Chigumba said.

“The reason why we have the voter registration blitz in two phases is you may not know that registering to vote does not mean that as soon as you are handed the voter registration slip… automatically your name is added onto the voter’s roll.

“There is another process which happens after you register to vote which is a process whereby the documents that you have submitted to register to vote are verified by our system.

“We have two systems of verification. First we verify if your ID is genuine. The next thing is we verify your fingerprints which we run through AFIS – the automated fingerprints identification system. In some instances, what we discover is that when we do our verification process, some people are double registrants – they have registered twice at two different centres.

“We might discover that there are four people with different pictures with the same ID which means one or two or three of them have ID documents which will be flagged as not being authentic ID documents.

“So please understand that having a voter registration slip is not proof that your name is on the voters’ roll. It is proof that you have registered to vote, but we then vet your documents and you have no idea the number of issues that arise.

“You will be so surprised that out of 50 people who register, a lot of them will have issues and their names will not automatically be going onto the voters’ roll until those issues are resolved.”

Chigumba said the second voter registration blitz in April was designed to “clean the voters’ roll for purposes of delimitation.”

“We anticipate that the delimitation process will be started after August of 2022 which is when the final census report will be tabled before parliament. So we do voter registration and start cleaning the data in order to determine who should be on the voters’ roll and who does not have authentic documents,” she said.

“So, after the April voter registration blitz, that is the final blitz that we will use to have registered voters who will inform the delimitation process. But remember the voter registration will continue in our prominent 73 offices countrywide until two days after the proclamation of the election date.”

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