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Zimbabwe: Not Ready for Elections

AfricaFocus Bulletin
Jan 26, 2011 (110126)
(Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor's Note

"As representatives of Zimbabwe's civil society, we are convinced that at present, the country has not carried out sufficient institutional and legislative reforms to enable the country to hold credible elections free of violence and intimidation." - Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, in statement calling for additional action by the African Union and the Southern African Development Community.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains statements by the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition and the Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN), on the conditions needed to ensure free and fair elections, and the executive summary of a new report from ZESN on the state of the electoral roll.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today contains excerpts from a new report by Afrobarometer on a national poll taken in late October 2010, noting the current state of opinion and changes since previous polls. Strikingly, a majority think that elections should take place in 2011 although they also are apprehensive that they will not be free and fair.

For previous AfricaFocus issues on Zimbabwe, visit

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor's note++++++++++++++++++++

Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition

Addis Ababa, 26 January 2011

Sham elections across Africa have been a major cause of insecurity, instability and violent conflict; recent examples include Kenya, Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast.

The Africa Union (AU) must be robust and resolute in promoting shared values and best practices in the management of elections for purposes of political stability, good governance and sustainable socio-economic development.

The AU's condemnation of Ivory Coast's election fraud is a commendable first step that must be backed by appropriate action. The same approach should be applied to all national electoral processes in Africa, including in Zimbabwe where recent elections, notably the 2008 plebiscite was marred by extreme violence and intimidation. Following those elections, the AU and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) underwrote an agreement under which Zimbabwe's political leaders formed a power-sharing government in February 2009 aimed at paving way for transparent, free and fair elections.

As representatives of Zimbabwe's civil society, we are convinced that at present, the country has not carried out sufficient institutional and legislative reforms to enable the country to hold credible elections free of violence and intimidation. We ask that the AU takes the following actions on Zimbabwe:

  1. The AU and SADC should conduct independent investigations in Zimbabwe to establish whether the necessary conditions exist, and the environment is conducive to holding transparent, free and fair elections, before a new poll can be called. Fresh elections should, therefore, only be announced after the AU and SADC have cleared them.
  2. Push for key reforms that must be undertaken ahead of fresh elections which include the establishment of a new democratic constitution, media freedoms, an up-to-date voters' roll, an adequately resourced, independent and impartial electoral management body, and mechanisms to prevent violence and intimidation before, during and after elections.
  3. Together with SADC, ensure that Zimbabwe enforces constitutional civilian control over the army and the security forces to prevent interference with electoral processes and to ensure democratic transfer of power. At present the infrastructure of violence, that includes the youth militia, war veterans and a partisan security force, remains unreformed adversely affecting the most vulnerable groups including women, children, the disabled, the elderly and the youth.
  4. Ensure that SADC supervises fresh Zimbabwe elections which the AU and other international groups vigorously observe and monitor. Deployment of election monitors should be at least six months before elections with monitors remaining on the ground at least three months after the elections.
  5. Provide technical, administrative and other assistance to Zimbabwe aimed at developing and strengthening its electoral institutions and processes.

Contacts in Ethiopia and Zimbabwe:

  1. Mr. Phillip Pasirayi, Spokesperson, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition: email: Mobile Number: +251 922 331 649
  2. Mr. Dewa Mavhinga, Regional Coordinator, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition: Mobile Number: +251 922 331 650
  3. Mr. McDonald Lewanika, Director, Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition: Mobile Number: +263 772127398

ZESN's Statement on the state of the voters roll in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Election Support Network
+263 (04) 791443, 798193, 791803, 250736 /
or visit

16 December 2010-Harare- Zimbabwe Election Support Network welcomes the statement expressed by the Registrar-General on the 14th of December 2010 on ZBC TV. The Registrar-General noted that the voters roll is in shambles, an aspect that ZESN has over the years emphasized. ZESN notes that a clean voters' roll will go a long way in increasing the credibility of electoral processes in Zimbabwe.

ZESN appreciates the intention to finally act on the voters roll. Findings from the voters roll observation recently conducted by ZESN revealed significant flaws with the voters roll when tested for currency, completeness and accuracy. The research revealed that 27 per cent of voters in the voters roll are deceased, 41 per cent of voters do not live at the address listed in the voters roll and that only 18 per cent of registered voters are youths (18-30). Research findings also showed that proof of residency requirements for urban populations constituted an obstacle in voter registration.

While ZESN welcomes the intention to cleanse the voters roll, we urge the Registrar-General to ensure that the process is under the control of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which has the legal mandate for electoral processes in Zimbabwe. ZESN observes the close link that exists between voter registration and civic registry but still believes that the mandate for voter registration should fully fall under the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC). ZESN believes that total control of the voters roll by ZEC will ensure greater accountability on the state of the voters roll.

The voter registration and voters' roll clean-up processes need to be transparent, inclusive and allow those who are eligible to vote to be registered and those who are not eligible such as deceased people to be removed from the voters roll. ZESN encourages the commission to engage in voter education related to voter registration, display, make accessible the voters roll to the public to ensure transparency and enhance confidence in the electorate.

An accurate, complete and current voters' roll will ensure that all eligible Zimbabweans are able to exercise their democratic right to vote in elections more so as we approach the referendum and general elections in the near future. ZESN expects that disclosure of the process will ensure that the authorities' plan for the millions of Zimbabweans working outside is revealed and interrogated openly.

A Report on a Voters' Roll Observation Conducted in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)

Executive Summary

In April 2010, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), a civic organisation whose main goal is to promote democratic elections in Zimbabwe, embarked on a Voters' Roll Audit (VRA) to assess the quality of the voters' roll in Zimbabwe. The research project sought to test the accuracy; currency and completeness of the voters' roll and make recommendations for a clean-up of the roll.

Voter registration is the principal means to determine those eligible to vote and those ineligible to vote. Thus a flawed voters' roll can disenfranchise eligible voters and allow ineligible voters to vote. International law requires fairness in voter registration in order ensure that all eligible citizens can be registered to vote.

Observation of the voters' roll was conducted using three tests -- a computer test, a list-to-people field test and a people-to-list test. In the computer tests, a number of variables were selected such as age, gender and number of voters in 2008 compared to 2010. In the two field tests conducted, the currency, completeness and accuracy of the voters' roll were ascertained by confirming the identity, national registration number, date of birth and address of the voter. A systematic analysis of data obtained from these tests provides critical information about the quality of the voters that can inform efforts to improve the voter registration in Zimbabwe.

Findings from the study

Accuracy of the voters' roll

  • The list-to-people test revealed that 41% of registered voters are no longer residing at the address in the voters' roll.
  • 97% of respondents have not transferred to reflect the change in residential address against 3% who transferred to new wards.
  • 57% of voters had no knowledge of how to transfer from the voters' roll.
  • 93% of entries in the voters' roll were accurately entered and 7% of entries had errors, mainly on name, sex, date of birth and identity numbers.
  • 99% of voters had their identity number captured correctly.

Completeness of the voters' roll

  • There was a 6.35% increase in the number of registered voters between 2008 and 2010.
  • More males (52%) were registered compared to females, who constituted 48% of the registered population. Yet population statistics for Zimbabwe indicate that women constitute 52 per cent of the population.
  • The computer test showed that only 18% of those registered are youths aged between 18-30.
  • 49% of respondents did not appear on the voters; roll against 51% who appeared. However, ZESN is cautious with this finding as there was no electronic database to confirm if the persons were absent elsewhere in the voters' roll. This figure could also be explained by the migratory nature of Zimbabweans.
  • 95% of voters had used voter registration drives to register as voters.
  • 98% of respondents had national identity cards and 2% did not.

Currency of the voters' roll

  • The list-to-people test showed that 27% of voters registered in the voters' roll were deceased.
  • The computer test revealed 2344 people born between 1901 and 1909, therefore aged between 101 and 110 years old. It also revealed nine people born between 1890 and 1900 (aged between 111 and 120 years).

The voter registration process

  • 94% of voters expressed satisfaction with the voter registration process.
  • 94% of respondents felt that providing proof of residence was not a difficult task, with urban provinces --mainly Harare (29%) and Bulawayo voters (14 %) -- expressing difficulties in obtaining proof of residence.
  • The study revealed that rural provinces have higher voter turnout than urban provinces.

Recommendations to ZEC

Given the findings from the voters' roll observation, ZESN makes the following recommendations to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as the body that supervises the voter registration function of the Registrar-General of Voters.

  • Draw up a new a voters' roll in Zimbabwe which will go a long way in improving the currency, accuracy and completeness of the voters' roll. The process should be transparent and inclusive to ensure that all eligible persons are registered;
  • Strengthen the advisory committee on voter registration, which comprises of members of political parties, CSOs, academia, voter registration experts and voter registration information communication technology (ICT) experts, to act as a sounding board for ZEC;
  • Increase transparency of the voter registration processes such as deletion from the voters' roll as the process is currently out of public scrutiny and the criteria for deletion is left to the discretion of the Constituency-Registrars;
  • Voter education drives to inform citizens on the procedures for registration, transferring, objections, making claims and deletion of dead voters;
  • Voter education should also include information on how relatives can help the Registrar with objections and deletions of their deceased relatives from the voters' roll;
  • Continuous maintenance of the voters' roll is important to ensure that voters that have become ineligible to vote, for example by death, are removed in order to prevent over inflating the voters' roll;
  • Encourage ZEC to display the voters' roll to make it easier for citizens to make objections on the retention of certain names in the voters' roll;
  • Requirements such as proof of residence need to be reviewed, especially for urban voters and young voters who find it difficult to produce proof of residence;
  • The voters' roll should be accessible and readily available for inspection to the public to increase transparency and confidence in the voters' roll.

Recommendations to Government

  • Voter registration must, in its entirety, be integrated into one office of ZEC and ZEC should have total control of voter registration and maintanance of the voters' roll to ensure greater accountability for its state;
  • Ensure the funding of ZEC is adequate for voter registration and voter education that relates to voter registration;
  • Prioritise young people in the issuance of the national identity card to increase the numbers of young people who register as voters;
  • Review the requirement for proof of residence requirement as it can be a barrier to the youths and other urban dwellers without a stable residence.

Recommendations to political parties and civil society

  • Encourage citizens to continually check their registration status;
  • Increase education programmes on the importance of voter registration;
  • Monitor the registration updating process and pay special attention to relocated voters, deceased voters and unregistered voters;
  • Improve youth participation through programmes that enhance youth participation in electoral processes such as voter registration.

Recommendations to the international community

Voter registration exercises are resource intensive and ZESN urges the international community to fund and provide resources as well as technical support to ZEC on voter registration and maintenance of the voters' roll.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

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