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Public Poorly Informed As Zimbabwe Voter Registration Deadline Nears

With a deadline for Zimbabweans to register to vote coming up fast on Feb. 8, observers say the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is not doing enough to increase public awareness of the impending closure of voters lists before March 20 ballots.

Registration by voters and changes to existing registrations end next Friday, while a window for inspections closes one day earlier.

Candidates for office in the presidential, general and local elections to be held March 29 must also register at nomination courts around the country by Feb. 8.

The opposition and civic groups are urging members of public to verify that they are registered and, in the case of those who have recently turned 18 years of age, to register for the first time so they can cast ballots in the elections.

The government announced, meanwhile, that it has opened 5,000 centers around the country where the public can inspect the voters roll, but independent observers said the arrangement is inadequate to ensure all voters can inspect the voters roll.

For insight into the registration process and the problems which have arisen, reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe turned to Jestina Mukoko, national director of the Zimbabwe Peace Project and a member of the board of the Zimbabwe Election Support Network, and McDonald Lewanika, spokesman for the Crisis in Zimbabwe Coalition, which has been staging "Rock the Vote" musical events across the country to encourage young people in particular to register.

Mukoko said would-be voters are facing the same challenges in registering were seen before previous elections in attempting to exercise their democratic right to vote.

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