The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission lifted the ban on voter registration late in March this year amid threats of the Covid-19 pandemic which had led to the suspension of electoral processes.
Be that as it may, voter registration is an ongoing process that ensures that all who are eligible to vote can participate in the country’s elections.
A worrying trend has been visible from the data and statistics constantly presented by the electoral commission on the turnout of citizens across the country to register as voters.
Before the pandemic disrupted processes, ZEC reported that only 1 444 people registered as voters in 2019. This is typical of current trends as the ZEC Bulawayo office revealed that on average they get zero new voter registrants. In Masvingo, it was reported that in May, only six people turned up to register as voters.
Voter registration is the preliminary step for citizens to be participating in a democracy. Leadership, public policy, public resource management and public interests are shaped by those wise enough to claim their right to vote.
Electoral apathy has been ongoing for quite some time in Zimbabwe due to lack of trust by the citizens, political violence and lack of proper electoral education.
According to Election Resource Centre, by-elections in Zimbabwe since 2018 have only managed to pull a 48% voter turnout.
All things considered, proper voter education campaigns at the earliest stages of the electoral cycle is critical if we are to register more voters as a country.
Civic society has been playing a major role in trying to engage citizens to register as voters, especially the youths.
Dominant organisations such as ERC, ZESN and 4-H Zimbabwe Foundation have launched massive voter registration campaigns at a national level.
Individuals such as Nhlanhlayamngwe Ndiweni have also been instrumental in this approach.
The electoral commission has the mandate to extensively inform the public on the voter registration exercise as proclaimed by the Electoral Act. Some citizens are not even aware that ZEC offices are now open for registration.
ZEC should use a hybrid approach that brings civic society, traditional leaders, influencers and political leaders to rally citizens to register as voters.
There is power in numbers. Political parties should be taking the lead to encourage eligible people to register.
Ultimately, the voter registration exercise will influence the delimitation process that ZEC will carry out soon. Recent studies have shown that Bulawayo, Masvingo and Matebeleland provinces are likely to lose out some constituencies in the process.
The voice of the people is the voice of democracy!