Zim poised for a BVR harmonised elections

By Lovemore Ranga Mataire

Preparations for the 2018 harmonised elections have moved a gear up following the awarding of a tender to Laxton Group Limited to supply 3 000 voter registration kits. In light of recent developments in Kenya where the Supreme Court nullified the presidential outcome citing irregularities mainly to do with electronic transmission of votes, Zimbabwe this week moved to allay fears of possible technological glitches associated with the BVR system.

Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Justice Rita Makarau said elections would be conducted in accordance with the law so as to avoid the Kenyan scenario where disgruntled opposition parties challenged the results in the Supreme Court. She said ZEC was working towards making the harmonised elections as transparent and credible as possible and urged master trainers and technicians of the BVR system to exhibit utmost integrity and professionalism.

“The Supreme Court of Kenya decided to set aside the presidential elections in that country for no reasons other than the elections were not conducted in accordance with the law,” she said. Taking leaf from the Kenyan scenario, Zimbabwe’s main opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai told his supporters last week that what happened in Kenya could also happen in the country next year. However, Tsvangirai’s aspersions were immediately dismissed by Justice Makarau who said there would be no room for any irregularities. She also said contrary to opposition allegations that ZEC worked with an Israeli company called Nikuv to rig elections in 2013, the elections were never rigged as they reflected the will of the people of Zimbabwe. Justice Makarau told the media that: “We don’t know who Nikuv is.

As ZEC we have never worked with Nikuv, as ZEC we have no contract with Nikuv, current or past, and we do not intend to work with Nikuv in 2018. In short we do not know Nikuv.” She dismissed allegations that ZEC favoured the ruling ZANU-PF saying the election body was open to all political parties which it treats on equal bases as mandated by the constitution.

“We are not biased in favour of any political interest, we are not biased in favour of any political party and the perception that we are inclined to ZANU-PF is regrettable in our view,” Justice Makarau said. She said all adult Zimbabweans were eligible to vote and were required to produce metal or plastic identity cards, waiting passes upon which the picture of the holder is annexed or a valid passport. The implementation of the BVR system has widely been accepted by stakeholders as a welcome development towards the improvement of the electoral process.

It has been hailed by the majority, particularly the fact that it will be getting rid of the old re-cycled voters’ roll which has been the centre of most electoral disputes. BVR is a registration process whereby in addition to details such as a person’s name and address being taken; the fingerprints and a picture (facial image) are also captured and stored on a computer. These are then stored in a central system and used in an automatic way to eliminate multiple voters, among other procedures.

This process is used to create a “clean” voters roll. The images (face and fingerprints) can also be used on voting day to automatically verify the person who is voting (that is, to confirm that the person is indeed who he/she is claiming to be). ZEC has said that it is not going to use biometrics automatically on voting day but will use biometrics to create a new voters roll, and may use the pictures manually on voting day (that is to visually compare the person voting and the picture stored on the computer when the person was registered).

Besides being used for elections, biometric data capturing is also useful for national planning purposes including creating a biometric payroll system that could assist in reducing administrative costs. But that is outside the mandate of ZEC whose job is on ensuring that the biometric voter registration is complete by the time of elections scheduled for September next year.

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