Aspiring Harare Central constituency Member of Parliament Linda Masarira is actually not a registered voter.
Masarira revealed in a letter written to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, ZEC, that her name does not appear on the voters roll issued to her by the commission yet she was accredited as a candidate by the nomination court on June 14.
According to Zimbabwean law, a person can not be a candidate if they are not registered as a voter in the area they intend to contest in.
Masarira’s wide ranging letter to the commission reads as follows:
I am writing to you this letter raising my concerns as an MDC-T MP candidate for Harare Central Constituency with regard to the Harare Central Constituency voters roll which is in shambles and shows lack of seriousness and professionalism from ZEC.
The 2018 harmonised elections are polling station based and l expected to receive the Harare Central voters roll which was polling station specific since this year’s elections are polling station based.
Firstly, l would like to note the irregularities during the voter registration period which was slow and seemed like a deliberate ploy to frustrate people registering to vote. The voter registration was not adequately advertised. Many people faced challenges in accessing the voter registration form and the VR9 proof of residence form which were not readily available at ZEC and l had to find sponsors to print the voter registration forms and VR9 forms and acquire the services of commissioner of oaths to certify the VR9 forms of those who wanted to register in ward 6 and ward 2 of Harare Central constituency.
Secondly, the voter inspection process was not given ample time for mistakes to be noted and for complaints to be lodged at ZEC regarding accuracy. The time given for voter inspection was too little and there wasn’t sufficient adverts and information dissemination in regard to the same.
Thirdly, ZEC supplied us with a Harare Central Constituency voters roll which is in shambles considering that the 2018 elections are polling station based, we expected a more professional polling station based voters roll from ZEC rather than the electronic copy which they supplied which can not be opened on a laptop and is also a hustle to log into the voters roll. In the Harare Central Constituency voters roll we have noted a lot of irregularities such as persons who are given addresses that do not exist in the given constituency e.g ZRP Camp, Chikurubi and Morris Depot. This is a cause of concern considering the election history of vote rigging and electoral fraud. Number 61 Cameroon street has nearly 500 registered voters on the same address. It is evident that ZEC has more than one database of the voters roll and l demand to be furnished with the actual voters roll that will be used in Harare Central Constituency and the voters roll for all polling stations for accountability and transparency.
I am a duly nominated candidate for Harare Central Constituency and my name is missing from the given voters roll including my chief elections agent Trust Ruvoko and my son Kuzivakwashe Mhlanga who registered to vote the same day with me is also not appearing on the electronic voters roll which ZEC supplied to me.
For the past two decades, successive audits of the voters roll have shown that the voters roll is not a true reflection of the registered voter population in Zimbabwe. Although section 194(1)(h) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe requires all tiers of government including ZEC to foster transparency by providing the public with timely, accessible and accurate information, this is not reflected in the Electoral Act and ZEC has not been transparent about many issues. For example, it has not published its procedural manuals, has refused to put the contract for printing ballot papers to public tender and continue to be very secretive about the source, storage and distribution of the ballot paper.
In 2013 every polling station in each constituency received copies of the same voters roll even though the election was ward based. Without other measures against multiple voting such as indelible ink a person could vote at all polling stations in the constituency. I implore ZEC to furnish me with polling station based voters roll to curb vote rigging and electoral fraud and the same to be done to all constituencies in Zimbabwe.
In the previous election 750 000 urban registered voters were missing from the voters roll. If ZEC was prepared for this year’s harmonised elections why haven’t they supplied the print voters roll yet, when we are now 19 days before an election?
It should be noted that Section 17 A and 21 (6) (a)(b) of the Electoral Act requires the continual updating of the voters roll and it’s inspection including issuing the same within a reasonable time before the polling date yet ZEC closed the voter registration for 2018 elections end of May 2018 thereby denying potential voters the opportunity to exercise their right to vote in 2018 harmonised elections. In 2013 Harare Central Constituency had 27 595 registered voters yet in 2018 Harare Central constituency has 14264 registered voters.
The right to vote under section 67 (3) of the Constitution states that, “every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over 18 years of over age has the right to vote in all elections and referendums” and section 155(2)(b) says “The State must take all appropriate measures, including legislative measures” to ensure that every eligible citizen has an opportunity to vote. Paragraph 1(2) of the Fourth Schedule to the Constitution allows the Electoral Law to prescribe residential requirements, but only “to ensure that voters are registered on the most appropriate voters roll” – not to prevent them from being registered at all.
The Electoral Act even with its new amendments, will deny the right to vote to several classes of citizens.
Citizens living outside Zimbabwe cannot be registered as voters and so will not be able to vote. This is because section 23 of the Electoral Act insists that persons must be resident in a constituency before they can be registered on a voters roll in that constituency. In any event ZEC provided no facilities for citizens outside the country to register on the new voters roll, so no one in the Diaspora will be registered unless they came back to Zimbabwe to apply for registration.
Hospital patients, persons manning essential services and registered voters who cannot go to a polling station to vote on election day will not be able to cast their votes unless they are permitted to vote by post and the only people who will be allowed a postal vote are election officials, members of the security services on electoral duty, and Zimbabwean diplomats overseas off which during the 2013 elections the special voting was paralyzed by failure to deliver the ballot paper on time. Special voting did not go well on 14/15 July 2013 due to shortage of voting materials, ink, ballot papers and ballot boxes and how are we guaranteed that this time around history will not repeat itself. This is the effect of sections 56(1) and 72 of the Electoral Act, and is stated expressly in section 22A(3). Hence many people like doctors and nurses, hospital patients, fire officers, long-distance drivers will be disenfranchised. Can the result of the forthcoming general election be regarded as representing the views of the people of Zimbabwe if so many citizens have been denied the right to express their views through the ballot?
It is clear that the Electoral Act is not yet aligned with the Constitution. This is very regrettable and does not augur well for the forthcoming elections.
There are other problems with the Act apart from its unconstitutionality.
√Unavailability: the only updated version of the Act currently available is the one on the Veritas website. An important requirement of the rule of law a foundational principle of the Constitution is that laws must be accessible, because if people cannot find out what the laws are they will not be able to obey them or know their rights under them. The Act should have been amended months ago and published in its amended form well before the election.
√Incomprehensibility: Those who can find an accurate copy of the Electoral Act will not find it an easy read. It is long, repetitive and sometimes obscure. It is five years since the last election, and Parliament had ample time to produce a new simplified Act.
√Errors: There are many errors in the Act that remain uncorrected. For example, the procedure to be followed after polling in a presidential election is dealt with by two sections, sections 37C and 110, which are inconsistent with each other.
It must be pointed out, however, that the deficiencies in the Act do not mean the elections will inevitably be unfree and unfair. A good Electoral Act does not guarantee good elections just as a bad one does not guarantee flawed elections. Much depends on the people who conduct and contest the elections.
Hopefully your commissioners and staff will conduct themselves in a transparent manner. Zimbabweans need elections that are free, credible and fair even if the Electoral Act itself is inadequate.
l urge ZEC to diligently and efficiently discharge it’s mandate and stop hiding behind the law which they are continuously violating.
Linda Tsungirirai Masarira
MDC-T Harare Central MP Candidate
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