THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) has failed to release the 2018 provisional voters’ roll to an independent think-tank, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), thereby flouting a High Court order, while betraying its insincerity in availing the voter register for audit.
The ERC has been continually writing to Zec, requesting the voters’ roll, but in vain.
The 2018 High Court order read by The NewsHawks shows that Zec was directed to furnish the ERC with the provisional voters’ roll that it used for the inspection exercise in the period of 19-29 May 2018.
“For the avoidance of doubt, the reasonable period within which the respondent should furnish the applicant with the copy of the Provisional Voters’ Roll as per this order is hereby determined to be no more than five working days following payment of the prescribed fees,” read part of the ruling on the High Court order dated 14 June 2018.
While chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana said in a statement dated 28 May 2022 that the commission “will always make available copies of the voters’ roll upon request in accordance with the Electoral Act”, the ERC says efforts to get a copy have continually hit a brick wall.
“The voters’ roll is also a public document which, in any case, should also be available,” says Solomon Bobosibunu, the ERC programmes manager.
The commission should provide … any person who requests it, and who pays the prescribed fee, with a copy of any voters’ roll, including a consolidated roll, according to section 21 (3) of the Electoral Act.
Bobosibunu says the ERC is currently requesting Zec for a copy of the voters’ roll ahead of the delimitation exercise, a process that is proving to be an uphill task for the organisation.
“Its availability (voters’ roll) confirms transparency. It is important that we obtain the voters’ roll for the purposes of providing oversight on the entire process, which includes its compilation and upkeep,” Bobosibunu said.
He said Zec has been insincere in providing copies of the voters’ roll despite, in clear contravention of the Electoral Act.
“We have requested for it, and even if they say they give those requesting for it, we have not gotten the voters’ roll,” Bobosibunu said.
Bobosibunu said if Zec fails to furnish the ERC with the voters’ roll for inspection ahead of the delimitation exercise, the credibility of the process will be compromised.
“The electoral process will be shrouded in secrecy,” he said.
“The voters’ roll can never be a secret. It is a document that is meant for Zimbabweans.
“And the voters’ roll contains details that we need either to contest or support. So you don’t want people to be questioning the document because you are simply keeping it to yourself. The document must be provided as per procedure; we write for it, we pay the prescribed fee as provided for in the Electoral Act.”
The opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) says it us important for Zec to provide independent think-tanks with the voters’ roll as this enhances the credibility of the electoral process.
“The voters’ roll is a critical measure of any electoral integrity, hence denying anyone that legal entitlement is not only illegal but a violation of the citizens’ right to audit the country’s electoral systems and processes,” said Ellen Shiriyedenga, CCC deputy secretary for elections.
“Zec as a state institution has a specific public obligation to act in a transparent manner and respect the citizens’ political right to access information. If at all the voters’ roll is in a good state, then there is no reason why citizens should be denied a copy, unless otherwise.”
Meanwhile, Zec says verification of the voters’ roll can only be done by registered voters who are interested in checking on whether their details are correctly captured.
“Please note that the law does not provide for the independent audit of the voters’ roll hence the commission will not yield to any pressure exerted on it to act ultra vires its governing act,” said Silaigwana in a statement on 28 May.