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All on course for 2018 elections

So, basically, everyone will know where they are supposed to vote. We are encouraging people to register and familiarise themselves with their respective polling stations.

The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission has drafted regulations regarding voter registration.

We intend to start voter registration as soon as we acquire Biometric Voter Registration kits, therefore our regulations should be updated to take that into account.

Our legal team drafted the regulations, but before finalising them, we are soliciting stakeholder input after which the final version will be sent to the Attorney-General’s Office for drafting.

ZEC has asked all stakeholders to submit comments on the draft, and we still await their feedback. By stakeholders I mean political parties, civic society groups and faith-based organisations.

Let me emphasise: These are draft regulations and that’s why we want stakeholder input. They are not the final version.

Some stakeholders are commenting publicly. That is their privilege; they are free to do that. However, we hope that in the fullness of time, they will give us their detailed submissions.

Ours will just be a draft as the AG’s Office is where law officers will put the document together in proper legal language.

Some of the issues emerging from stakeholder contributions relate to Diaspora voting. They want us to include that in the regulations, but, unfortunately, we cannot.

The regulations are subsidiary legislation and must always be intra variant the parent Act. So, the regulations are guided by what is in the parent Act.

The third provision is not in the parent Act and so cannot be included in the regulations. In other words, there cannot be more powers in the regulations than the Act gives it.

Therefore, we would like to direct all stakeholders who are commenting to the Act for them to establish whether our regulations are intravenous the Act.

In other words, this is establishing whether our regulations conform to powers that we have been given in the Act.

The Act is silent on Diaspora voting; that is why the regulations are also silent on the matter. Our law provides that every Zimbabwean must vote at a polling station within a ward in which they reside.

That is the current law, so as the law stands, those who are resident outside Zimbabwe will not be able to vote and that is what guides us.

Others wanted us to include timelines in the regulations.

However, these regulations are not going to be for 2018 alone. They will be there until such a time when they are reviewed or repealed. You cannot put 2018 timelines for regulations that are going to apply to other elections.

Usually, in a legal framework, you do not put timelines and say this should happen by this or that date.

We simply provide what has to happen and timelines then become an administrative issue.

But we welcome all the other comments that are coming through. We will take them on board, but, like I said, Zec will finalise the draft and then send it to the AG’s Office for drafting into a Statutory Instrument.

That SI will be tabled before the Parliamentary Legal Committee and tested against the Constitution — a process that every other SI is subjected to. So, the regulations are not yet final. If the draft is a “disaster” as some are calling it, then we encourage such people to help us clean up the disaster.

Everyone has a say in the regulations.

BVR kit testing

We invited three bidders for the supply of Biometric Voter Registration kits for site validation (April 20—28, 2017), and two confirmed their participation.

It is a very thorough process that will, hopefully, lead us to an informed decision on who to go with.

On April 28, 2017, ZEC must be able to make that decision. We will collect reports from observers and experts from the ICT Ministry and ZEC. Then the ZEC board will meet to analyse these reports and then award the tender.

We already have a civic registry that is being run by Registrar-General Mr Tobaiwa Mudede.

What we are simply doing with Biometric Voter Registration is one component; taking the voter population into the voters’ roll.

This is a process we started with the United Nations Development Programme, and at the time, stakeholders were all happy with the process right up to the time the State Procurement Board took over.

We have not deviated from the process we started with the UNDP.

So, the integrity that was there in the beginning will be maintained right up to the end. We have taken a deliberate decision not to go outside that process.

Mapping

The mapping exercise was completed on April 14, 2017, and maps will be printed, with the public free to come and inspect them.

We are now mapping polling areas: Each polling station will have a catchment area that will serve people from within that jurisdiction.

We demarcated each polling station by describing its physical features — roads, rivers, streets, etcetera. We have already done that and want to give the public a chance to look at their particular areas.

For instance, if you stay in Mt Pleasant and have been allocated a particular school in your neighbourhood, how has it been defined? Are you happy with that definition? Perhaps we could have placed you elsewhere.

That is the purpose of a mapping exercise.

We will take comments and legitimate suggestions, but mapping was guided by ward boundaries that were delimited in 2008.

We cannot go outside constituency boundaries in the Delimitation Report of 2008.

We are not doing a delimitation exercise, but simply saying you go to that little corner within those existing boundaries.

However, we can take representations, especially in rural areas where some villagers are saying they might have to cross rivers to get to areas allocated to them.

So, basically, everyone will know where they are supposed to vote. We are encouraging people to register and familiarise themselves with their respective polling stations.

For instance, if you come from Mazowe, you can register in Harare or at any registration centre.

But you will have to be registered where you reside as we will need proof of residence and a national ID card.

We are still on course; still within our timeline. Voter registration is supposed to close by November 2017 to allow the electorate ample time to inspect the voters’ roll.

We know that there has been an outcry, with some saying the voters’ roll is expensive. So, we may review the price if a good case is made.

So far, we thought we had priced it very reasonably.

If you want it for a polling station, we are saying pay a dollar; and if it is for a ward, we are saying pay US$15; and US$15 or US$20 for a constituency. We have tried to be very reasonable, but the matter has been blown out of proportion. We are still open to suggestions.

Justice Rita Makarau is the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. She was speaking to The Sunday Mail Chief Reporter Kuda Bwititi in Harare on April 13, 2017

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