ZEC: We’ll only release voters roll after candidate nomination challenges are cleared

ZEC claims nomination controversy delaying voters roll release (REUTERS/PHILIMON BULAWAYO)

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) says it will only release the voters’ roll once legal challenges to candidate nominations are cleared, resisting growing pressure from the opposition to immediately make available the register.

Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act states that ZEC must, “within a reasonable period of time” after the nomination process, issue a free electronic voters’ roll to every duly nominated candidate. But Rodney Kiwa, deputy chair of ZEC, has told a meeting of election observers that more than 100 appeals have been made after the nomination court sat to register candidates on June 21. This, he said, means that ZEC must delay releasing the roll.

“The Commission will comply with the mandatory – it’s not a choice – but a mandatory requirement to issue a free copy of the voters’ roll to each duly nominated candidate as soon as possible, and in any case before the 20th of July when we hope that all the legal challenges will have been completed. We can’t issue the voters’ roll now without that legal determination. Our hands are tied,” Kiwa said on Saturday.

The Citizens Coalition for Change (CCC), the main challenger to the ruling ZANU PF in the election on August 23, has appealed against the nomination of dozens of candidates that it says were illegally registered under its name. The party insists that ZEC is deliberately holding on to the voters’ roll to avoid independent audits.

“We wrote to ZEC on the 24th of June requesting to purchase the voters’ roll, as is provided for by the law. We have not received a response from ZEC,” says Ellen Shiriyedenga of the CCC’s elections unit.

The voters’ roll inspection which began in May had thrown up “anomalies” on the roll – including missing names – and the CCC wants to see if these had been fixed, she said. CCC has previously called for an independent audit of the voters’ roll to rule out any manipulation. But, according to Kiwa, that public inspection of the voters’ roll was all the “audit” needed.

“This is the form of audit of the voters’ roll that our Electoral Act provides for. The onus is on each individual to check their details. There is no provision for a so-called independent audit of the voters’ roll, unlike in other countries, such as Zambia, Kenya or South Africa. We don’t have that,” says Kiwa.

In 2018, an independent audit of the voters’ roll by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN), the biggest local observer group, found that the roll was an improvement on the provisional roll used in 2013, despite data errors that ZESN said could have been corrected had the roll been released on time.

Just over 6.6 million voters are registered for this election, a million more than in 2018.