ZIMBABWE Electoral Commission chairperson Rita Makarau continues to dither on the voter registration issue after two citizens approached the High Court seeking an order to force the election management body to launch the exercise without further delays.
BY RICHARD CHIDZA
In the application, Kakudzwa Mavure and Victoria Chiyanike pleaded with the court to declare as unconstitutional Makarau’s decision to discontinue the voter registration exercise and only register people in constituencies where by-elections were being held.
“If the personnel at the offices of the second respondent (Zec) are to be believed, that means persons who reside in places where by-elections were or are being held are the recipients of a benefit under the law which I am being denied because there is no by-election in the constituency I seek to be registered,” Mavure, the first applicant, told the court.
“This is clearly in contravention of the right to equal protection and benefit under the law. By failing to comply with the requirements of the Electoral Act [Chapter2:13], the first (Makarau) and second (Zec) respondents are violating my right to equal protection and benefit of the law as well.
“For those reasons, I am seeking a declaration regarding the non-compliance with the provisions of law and an order for the first and second respondents to comply with the requirements of the law.”
The applicants further argued that the denial of registration as a voter was against the letter and spirit of the law.
While Makarau admitted that indeed the law placed an obligation on Zec, the High Court has already made a decision in the Zapu case in which the opposition party also sought a mandamus (a judicial writ issued as a command to an inferior court or ordering a person to perform a public or statutory duty) directing the commission to commence voter registration.
“This contextualisation of the voter registration functions of the Commission in terms of Annexure B lies in paragraph 1 of the order granted in that matter (Page 6 of the cyclostyled judgment), which reads: That the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission shall forthwith discharge its constitutional and statutory functions in a way it deems best suited for the purpose and within the scope and confines of the available resources,” the Zec chairperson argued.
Makarau said Zec had, therefore, made the decision to adopt the biometric voter registration system, which would allow the election management body to do away with the contentious old voters’ rolls compiled by Registrar-General Tobaiwa Mudede.
“By so doing, the Commission seeks to do away with the reference to or reliance upon the erstwhile voters’ rolls that had been maintained by the Registrar-General of Voters, which rolls, rightly or wrongly, have been the subject of many objections from various stakeholders,” she said.
Makarau said Zec would soon begin nationwide voter registration.