Voter roll fiasco: Fictitious addresses, missing names raise eyebrows

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A Zimbabwe Electoral Commissioon (ZEC) official checks names in the voter roll register which critics say has been padded out with babies, the dead and bogus names in the past to help rig elections

Eight people who are registered under one address will vote in five different constituencies in Harare in one of the eye-popping discoveries during an analysis of the voters roll recently released by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC).

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ZEC has come under fire from the MDC Alliance led by Nelson Chamisa for allegedly trying to fiddle with the voters roll to give President Emmerson Mnangagwa and the ruling Zanu PF an advantage ahead of the July 30 harmonised elections.

The electoral body only released the contentious roll a few days ago amid accusations that it had violated the constitution by delaying the release of the voters register until after the nomination court.

An analysis of the voters roll carried out by The Standard with help from a top United States biometric voter registration (BVR) expert, Wes Beal, revealed several anomalies that could put a dent on the credibility of the voters roll.

In what could be a tip of the iceberg, eight people are registered under a fictitious address in Harare’s Highlands suburb and they will vote in five different constituencies in the capital despite the fact that the elections would be polling station-based.

Investigations by The Standard that involved searching Harare City Council records showed that an address, 3 Kew Drive in Highlands, does not exist, but eight people used it to register to vote during the BVR process that began last year.

They will vote in Glen view North, Harare East, Harare West, Kuwadzana and Harare Central. None of the registered voters from that address share a surname.

A search at the Highlands council district offices showed that 3 Kew Drive does not exist.

Officials at the council offices said they did not have any rates history of the purported property and did not know where it was located.

Council records show that numer 1 Kew Road is Highlands Primary School, followed by 7 Kew Road, which is just next to the school.

Another fictitious address used to register potential voters was 6 Mabelreign, which has 26 registered voters.
Just like those from 3 Kew Driver, the Mabelreign potential voters will cast their ballots in different constituencies. Attempts to locate this address also failed.

Beal said the issue of duplicates stood out on the voters roll, especially in villages, police and army cantonment areas, but said these were not much to worry about.

“Regarding the duplicate addresses, what I think may turn out to be a bigger problem are the addresses with less than 100 people, but more than that should be at a single address,” he said.

“For example, in Harare West, there are 26 people listed as living at ‘6, Mabelreign’.

“What I find more confusing is that those people, all at the same address, are listed as having seven different polling locations, and nine different polling stations.”

An Microsoft excel analysis of the voters roll shows that there are at least
68 001 addresses with more than one polling station assigned to people that live at the same address.

However, the analysis is not conclusive given that ZEC made numerous spelling mistakes and entered the same address in different styles.

One such scenario was 1 Glynde Ave, Mabelreign, Harare, entered on three occasions as either 1, Glynde Avenue, Mabelreign or 1, Glynde, Mabelreign, Harare; the correct address is Glynde Avenue, Mabelreign.

There was also a notable reduction of registered voters from the provisional voters roll. But in the absence of the provisional voters roll, it is not possible to tell what led to the decrease.

In Mutoko North, there was a decrease of 1,65% from the number of registered voters released on May 8 by Zec.
On the provisional roll, there were 23 710 to 23 319, but in in the final voters roll, 391 registrants had been removed.

Hurungwe West lost 99 voters, while in Magunje there was a decrease of 136 voters. In Kariba, 100 entries were removed, while in Mhangura, only six names were removed.

The voters roll also shows the largest group of registered voters were between the ages of 30 and 34, which has 738 000 voters representing 13,92% of all voters.

The largest age bracket of voters are those under the age of 35 at 44,54%, those between 35 and 60 constitute 13% and those above 60 are 12% of potential voters.

Those born after 1980 constitute 52% of the voting population, the analysis showed.

“On ages, another number to look at is 52, 88% of the electorate which is made up of people born after 17 April, 1980,” Beal said.

“I don’t know about previous elections, but in this election, a majority of registered voters are ‘born free’.”
Harare East MDC-T candidate Obert Gutu said the errors on the voters roll showed a lack of commitment to a clean election by Zec and the ruling Zanu PF.

“You would not understand why the proclamation was hurried when the voters roll was in such a mess,” he said.
“What should have happened is that Zec must have taken time to clean this roll, release a final voters roll and allow it to lie for inspection so that all errors are cleared.”

The Elections Resource Centre (ERC), an independent polls watchdog, said Zec must avail the provisional voters roll to enable people to track the data changes on the final roll, “it is important to note that since (Zec) has not yet released either the 2018 preliminary voters roll or the 2018 exclusion list,” the ERC said,“it is not possible to fully assess the quality of the 2018 final voters roll.

“The High Court has ruled that (Zec) should release the 2018 preliminary voters roll in an electronic format that was used during the voters’ inspection.

“We urge Zec to urgently comply with the court order and release not only the 2018 preliminary voters roll, but also the exclusion list in electronic format as has already been done for the final voters roll.”

The Zimbabwe Elections Support Network said it had commissioned its own study into the voters roll and would only comment upon completion of the analysis.

Zec acting chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana said he could not respond to queries from The Standard because he was out of the office.

He referred all questions to public relations director Justin Manyau. Manyau said he had given the questions to the “relevant departments”, but there was no response at the time of going to print.

MDC-T secretary general Douglas Mwonzora said Zec lacked the independence to run a credible election.

“We have had to drag Zec to the courts so that it implements constitutional provisions and along the way Zec has been resisting, only to be forced by the courts to comply with the law,” he said.

“From the diaspora vote, aliens’ right to vote, release of the provisional voters roll, extension of voter registration and access to the printing of ballots, we have had to fight while Zec did everything to block it.”

Justice Priscilla Chigumba has led the fight to resist the changes and along the way she has made gaffes, which have cast doubts on her credibility and impartiality.

Addressing a parliamentary portfolio committee early this year, Chigumba said the constitution provided for polling station-based voting.

She told the committee that the new constitution effectively bars diaspora voting.

However, Gutu, who is also a lawyer by profession, said Chigumba’s interpretation of the Constitution was wrong.

“The constitution adopted in 2013 does not disallow people in the diaspora to vote, it does not even create the polling station-based voting. with all due respect to the learned judge, she misinterpreted the constitution,” he said.

“It does not even say that one has to be physically present in Zimbabwe to cast their vote. Zec should have put in place systems to allow diasporans to vote.”

Gutu said there was serious need for a structural change of the Zec secretariat and commissioners for Zimbabwe to hold credible elections.

“Without cleaning out the hygiene issues at the commission, the polls will be compromised,” Gutu said.

Gutu said Zec was wrong in advising Mnangagwa to call for an election when they did not have a voters roll.

“Zec was supposed to gazette the voters roll first after which the president would have proclaimed the elections.

This mess we are in now is because of systems that are being manipulated,” he said.

Former Finance minister Tendai Biti said Mnangagwa had up to August 22 to hold an election but instead chose to rush the country into a poll without a voters roll.

He said they suspected collusion between Zec and Zanu PF in the alleged plot to rig the elections.