COVID-19 disrupting voter registration in Matabeleland Region

THE outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic which disrupted a number of significant services could explain why a majority of people have not registered to vote in Matabeleland Region, which is likely to lose a number of Constituencies according to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

Recently released statistics from ZEC show that by January 8 this year, only 3435 members of the public had registered to vote as new voters.

The Southern Region accounted for the least registered voters as Bulawayo had a total of 825, Matabeleland North 106 while Matabeleland South had 283 voters.

In total there are about 5,6 million registered voters and ZEC has said these will be the only ones who will participate in the forthcoming by-elections.

ZEC statistics also show that overall, Bulawayo has the lowest number of registered voters with 254 630 followed by Matabeleland South with 259 689 registered voters and Matabeleland North standing at 335 851.

In a snap survey conducted to establish reasons for low turnout to register to vote, members for the public cited that COVID-19 lock down, lack of national identity cards, poor voter education and the centralization of ZEC offices were the reasons behind the low figures.

A majority of respondents said ZEC had let them down despite disruptions by the COVID-19 pandemic which fueled the closure of ZEC offices for the greatest part of 2021.

The global pandemic had also affected the issuance of National ID cards by the registry office as the majority of potential voters could not register without the public document.

Some of the respondents said despite the COVID-19 pandemic, ZEC did not make any deliberate efforts to raise awareness on the voting process or avail mobile centres as seen in other countries which successfully held elections during the pandemic in the African region.

Youths were concerned that these low figures are a reflection of how they may miss out on choosing leaders since they do not have IDs.

Bongeka Ntini from Bulawayo said failure by the registry office to provide IDs is a sign that the Government wants to maintain older voters.

“We did not register because up to today we don’t have IDs although we turned 18 years of age in the year 2020. We are a majority that could have added to the few who registered to vote but maybe this is a control measure to ensure that we do not air our views come the year 2023,” she said.

Getrude Ncube from Lupane said she was already a registered voter but her children who are now over 18 years did not manage to register because of IDs and the distance they have to travel to the nearest ZEC Office.

“We tried to reach out to fellow community members who had lost hope in all this voting process but they did not register because ZEC offices were not accessible.”








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