BVR takeover by government a concern: UK ambassador

British ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing

GOVERNMENT’S takeover of the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) kits could adversely impact the transparency and credibility of next year’s elections, UK ambassador to Zimbabwe Catriona Laing has warned.

The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) had offered financial support to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) for the purchase of the BVR kits with government also pledging to help foot the bill.

However, the cash-strapped government then made a surprise about-turn, announcing it was completely taking over acquisition of the BVR kits.

The move outraged opposition parties who threatened mass protests against the government`s decision which was seen as a ploy by the Zanu PF-led administration to rig the polls.

In an interview in Bulawayo Tuesday on the side-lines of a donation firefighting equipment to the local authority, Ambassador Laing said changes in the BVR procurement process is a cause for concern.

“There are a number of conditions and recommendations that the African Union and SADC made that need to be place in order for all of us to have confidence that the elections, when they happen, will be free and fair,” she said.

“One of the issues we are concerned about is around the change of the procurement process around BVR. We wait to see how this is going to pan out.”

Introduction of BVR kits is meant to facilitate a transparent voter registration process as part of measures aimed at ensuring fair elections.

Ambassador Laing urged the Harare government to “cite the type of equipment it wants to purchase”, adding that they are “concerned if the process is no longer transparent and inclusive”.

Zimbabwe holds crunch fresh elections next year with the 93-year-old President Robert Mugabe, in power for 37 years, looking for another five-year mandate as head of state.

The opposition, which has long accused the veteran leader and his Zanu PF party of rigging its way to retaining power is keeping an eagle eye on preparations for the vote.

Last week, several parties demanded the removal of Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chair Jsutice Rita Makarau and disbandment of the poll agency which they claim is run by the CIO spy agency.

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