BIOMETRIC VOTER REGISTRATION OFF TO A GLITCHY START | Zimbabwe has begun fresh registration of all voters, with the process marked with interruptions, delays in electronic voter registration kits being used, and the failure of some of the kits to detect voters’ fingerprints.
Since Monday when the continuous voter registration began, Zimbabweans have been queuing at registration centres in the 63 districts countrywide that are opening between 08:00 and 16:45 hours.
Our teams which visited some centres yesterday said it was taking up to 30 minutes per person to register, instead of the four minutes per registrant that was assured by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) during stakeholder engagements.
Our Bulawayo reporter reports that senator David Coltart had to wait for more than two hours yesterday as the BVR machine failed to read his fingerprints at the Famona Zec offices where he went through the registration process.
“Firstly it took one hour 45 minutes to get registered, so if you do the mathematics, it will get the vast amount of time to get people registered. Of course I am urban-based, it’s easy for me to come here. Imagine someone in the rural areas,” he said.
“The main challenge was the machine failing to record my finger prints. After hours of trying, they brought technicians and they were only able to record five of my 10 finger prints. Eventually, they compromised and recorded those five and said they could not record the others. They said it’s not a problem because when you vote you use the thumbs and fortunately it did record the thumbs.”
Coltart said what happened exposed the technical defects of the system. “What about a rural person who doesn’t have a profile like mine, will they be treated with so much courtesy? I have to say the staff here was excellent, they did everything to assist me but in a rushed process, are they going to be giving people the same amount of time as they did to me?”
Registration per individual lasted between seven and 13 minutes on average in Bulawayo.
MDC president Welshman Ncube said while there were challenges associated with the machine, he was impressed with the way he managed to go through the process.“Going by our experience by now, it seems to have gone pretty well, it took about 10 minutes to get done, it appears they are following the proper procedures which are set out in the statutory instrument.
“We hope that this will continue, but the principal problem will continue to be registration of young people who have no independent proof of residents for themselves and often who have to be assisted by parents. Our hope is that everyone will be able to be patient to go through the process,” Ncube said.
In Harare, many people were turned away at Remembrance Complex in Mbare, for failure to produce proof of residence. There was also no Commissioner of Oath at some of the voter registration centres in Harare, with potential registrants turned away forced to look for a Commissioner of Oaths elsewhere, who charges $1 for an affidavit. At Remembrance Complex, Zec was taking approximately 15-20 minutes to process one person.
“We came here at around 8am but it’s now 12 pm we are still waiting in this queue to register to vote. The process is frustrating,” a disgruntled resident who declined to named said yesterday.
Some people left the centre without registering because they feared running late for work.
“Look, the issue of voter registration is very important to some of us, we want to register but the process is moving very slowly. We want to go to work after this process. I think this is a tactic to frustrate us so that we cannot register,” Takura Chitanda said.
Zec chairperson Rita Makarau said last week she wanted people to register early.
She said she foresaw a human problem “where most people when we know that there is an exercise of this sort, we do not want to be the first ones to register, we wait until the last day and then stampede the voter registration centres. So that could be one challenge that we could face that people will not want to come early to register as voters.
“So we want to urge all Zimbabweans, the minute that we proclaim that voter registration centres has begun for them to stampede our offices and register in large numbers,” Makarau said.