Harare – Does Zimbabwe’s electoral commission really intend to register one voter per second?
Critics of President Robert Mugabe are crying foul over revelations contained in the state Herald newspaper that a new voter registration exercise will be completed in eight months next year.
Possibly just seven if the authorities only start in June.
The newspaper – tightly controlled by a faction of Mugabe’s ruling party – quoted on Tuesday the head of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Rita Makarau as saying a new voter registration exercise will be carried out in 2017.
“We are going to come up with a new [biometric] voters’ roll for 2018,” said Makarau, a former judge.
She said the exercise would start “in May and June up to the end of 2017 hopefully”.
Mathematicians started calculating. An infographic produced by pressure group ReconstituteZw and shared on social media suggested that the authorities would need to register “one voter per second”.
Using the figure of 6.6 million voters in Zimbabwe, Reconstitutezw said that meant that 825 000 of them had to register every month if the exercise was to last eight months.
Pursuing that model, 27 500 voters have to register every day – and that’s assuming that registration can be done on Saturdays and Sundays (which isn’t guaranteed).
Divide that by eight working hours and 3 438 people must register every hour. Divide again, and you get a figure of one voter per second, Reconstitutezw said.
Critics pointed out that while the maths is correct, the model may be flawed (Reconstitutezw said it was “reflective of the appropriate tone and the need for urgency”).
The pressure group’s model assumes that registration is taking place at only one registration centre in the whole of the country. If, for example, a minimum of one registration centre is set up in each of Zimbabwe’s 210 constituencies, then the speed with which officials need to enter voters onto the new roll is much less: more like 16 per hour.
Growing economic and political crisis
But even that sounds ambitious for a chronically underfunded commission.
ZEC is rightly or wrongly widely seen to be in the hands of the ruling party: Makarau herself has acknowledged the presence of ex-security (read pro-Mugabe) personnel within its ranks.
And registration sounds to be a painstaking process. In a country where many rent or take sub-lets, who will find it easy to produce proof of residence? Not everyone will want to go through a painstaking registration process again, a fact that was exposed earlier this month by a study of middle-class Zimbabwean women’s participation in politics.
Online, few have faith in these new voter roll plans – especially given that in 2013 the authorities refused to release the electronic version of the roll to the opposition MDC. Wrote one reader of the state-run Chronicle: “They know that ‘their people’ whom they use for rigging will be registered at multiple polling stations, biometrics and all….They will still rig!”
Despite Zimbabwe’s growing economic and political crisis, some analysts are grimly predicting another win for Zanu-PF come 2018. Writing in Newsday on Monday, development expert Tapiwa Gomo told readers they should brace for “the nightmare most people would not want to contemplate” – a Zanu-PF victory.