A registered voter has approached the High Court seeking to bar the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) from acceding to demands by various political formations for the electoral body to provide them with a voters’ roll including her photograph or anyone else’s.
Ms Ethel Tsitsi Mpezeni argues that the demands by the opposition political parties violated her constitutional rights to her private life.
In an urgent chamber application filed in the High Court, Ms Mpezeni listed ZEC and Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi as respondents.
The application comes in the wake of opposition political parties’ incessant demands for a final voters’ roll with pictures, a proposal considered by observers as an intimidation scheme.
ZEC is on record insisting the voters’ roll contained sufficient information.
In her application, Ms Mpezeni said she was concerned that the electoral body was being asked to produce “my photograph next to my name”.
“I got very concerned, because now, the public space that I have so carefully ring-fenced away from my private life is under threat of being pierced,” says Ms Mpezeni.
“If first respondent (ZEC) accedes to the demands being made by the various political formations and provides them a voters’ roll that contains my full biographical details and my photograph, it will become possible for those who have different views from mine to know my real name, my national registration number and my address.
“All the effort I have made to keep my public political engagements and opinions away from my personal space will come to nought.”
Ms Mpezeni said her real fear was that she might have people coming to her house to attack her.
She made reference to disagreements she has had on her Facebook Wall with people that did not agree with her political views, but had always taken comfort in the knowledge that the most they could do was to insult her on that platform.
“It is my firm belief that the law must exist for a reason, and that reason must, well, be reasonable,” she argued.
“I do not believe that there is any reasonable reason why Statutory Instrument 85 of 2017 included the requirement for a photograph in its list of what information must be recorded on any voter.”
Further, Ms Mpezeni also believes that the preceding requirements (first and last name, sex, date of birth, national registration number and address) were adequate for the purposes for which a voters’ roll exists, namely to particularise individual voters with enough detail to determine that they are legally entitled to vote in an election in a specific area.
“In any event, even if there is a reason, I believe that such a reason is in violation of my right to privacy, in that it constitutes an unwarranted interference into my private space,” argued Ms Mpezeni.
“I do not believe that such interference is fair, reasonable, necessary or justifiable in a reasonable democracy.”
She further contends that these days criminals were coming up with more and more ways to use personal data for identity theft hence a reasonable Government agency would be very circumspect in its use of citizens’ private information.
“Given that a voters’ roll is accessible to all and sundry, I just feel that this particular requirement goes just way too far in disclosing personal data,” she argues.
“The photograph makes it possible for anyone so minded to clone national identity documents without the need for any effort or research, because all the information is available.”
To bolster her case, Ms Mpezeni attached papers demonstrating other countries’ approach to data protection in this digital age, which point to the potential for criminals exploiting too much data.
“I do not believe that first respondent should produce a voters’ roll that includes my photograph or anyone else’s,” she argues. “I believe that paragraph 9(c) of Statutory Instrument 85 of 2017 is in violation of the right to privacy as protected under section 57 of the Constitution. I believe that a finding of constitutional invalidity of that one sub-paragraph is called for, and that such a finding would not affect the production of a voters’ roll that can be used in the harmonised elections on 30 July 2018,” argues praying for an order in terms of the draft order she attached to the application.
The electoral body and Minister Ziyambi are yet to respond to the urgent chamber application.