Youths in Zimbabwe who form the backbone of the country’s political parties are being systematically barred from registering as voters, for the country’s impending crucial elections, by the office responsible for maintaining the voters roll.
The Registrar General’s Office, which is under the control of President Robert Mugabe loyalist and headed by Tobaiwa Mudede, has deliberately created bottlenecks to inhibit youths from registering.
The Youth Initiative for Democracy in Zimbabwe (Yidez), which seeks to mobilise youths to register so that they are eligible to vote during election periods have complained that the registration process was not “youth friendly” and that officials at the RG’s Office cited various excuses to bar their members from registering as voters.
“The problems we are facing as an organisation to have youths registered is that each time the officers from the RG’s Office see a group of young people with affidavits to confirm where they reside, then they know they are doing so for purposes of elections” said Yidez executive director Sydney Chisi.
Chisi adds that officers manning the registration offices also demand proof of residents and national identity, documents which are difficult to obtain. Most youths are still residing at their parent’s homes and those who are renting out apartments don’t posses the documents.
But the RG’s Office does not recognise tenants, thereby thwarting the democratic process by excluding from registration mostly youths and women.
Analysts say it’s a deliberate approach by Zanu PF to exclude the youth, who mainly support the MDC parties. Zanu PF is working with the RG’s office to make voter registration very difficult so that the youths do not win their battle for change.
Madock Chivasa, chairperson of another independent youth organisation, the Youth Forum Zimbabwe, also took a swipe at the RG’s Office for barring youths from voter registration.
“The Forum notes with deep regret the numerous bottlenecks that have over time become entrenched in our Constitution and other statutes that seek to inhibit the full participation of young people in the overall governance processes of our country.
“The requirements that the RG has set for one to be registered as a voter are inhibitive and have over the years denied a lot of young people their democratic right to participate in elections,” Chivasa noted.
A report released last week by an election monitoring organisation, the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, noted the majority of youths were not on the voters’ roll.
The network said the country’s shambolic voters’ roll contains dozens of names of people born as far back as 1897, thousands of children under 18 years of age and babies born in 2007.
Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai’s MDC has, since 2000, accused Zanu PF and the Registrar-General’s office of using the chaotic voters’ roll to rig elections in favour of Mugabe and his party.
The audit revealed that there were 26 475 people aged 100 years and above, of which 17 475 were 107 years old. It may be noted that Zimbabwe’s life expectancy rate, at 47 years, competes with the some of the world’s lowest.
It also showed that there were 5 600 children below 18 years old, who included babies born between 2005 and 2007, on the roll.
There were 93 children below one year old.
Zesn took a sample size of 102 wards of 1 958 in Zimbabwe and did a comparison of registered voters between 2008 and 2010 to test the voters’ roll accuracy, currency and comprehensiveness.
Three tests were used to conduct the analysis, namely a computer test, a list-to-people field test and a people-to-list test, an analysis of the voters roll.
According to the audit report, the list to people test showed that 27% of voters registered on the voters’ roll were deceased while the computer test disclose 2 344 people born between 1900 and 1909 therefore aged between 101 and 110-years-old.
The Zesn analysis shows that nine born between 1890 and 1899, aged between 111 and 120 years old in 2008, were also on the voters’ roll.
The Zesn audit observed lower voter participation among youths aged 18-30 years who consisted of only 18% from the computer test, while old age (71 plus) showed a total of 9% or 32 901 of registered voters.