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Civic Report Finds Flaws In Latest Zimbabwean Voter Registration Drive

The Zimbabwe Election Support Network on Wednesday released a report concluding that a mobile voter registration exercise intended to remedy shortcomings of an earlier registration drive was "hampered by poor publicity and...logistical shortcomingsā€¯.

ZESN said the latest registration drive, which ended Nov. 15, encountered the same logistical problems as its predecessor, which only registered some 80,000 voters. It reported problems including general unawareness of the registration exercise, electric power cuts and shortages of registration forms and photographic film.

The report noted that that "political parties were conspicuous by their absence from active mobilization of voters." The independent election monitoring body said that its observers only witnessed a single meeting organized by ruling ZANU-PF party, in northern Kariba, called to encourage citizens to register to vote.

The country is headed for local council elections in January followed by parliamentary and presidential elections in March, though some have called for the ballots to be postponed because to the enormous logistical challenges to be surmounted and the ongoing ruling party-opposition negotiations on political and electoral reform.

ZESN monitoring, carried out in the provinces of Mashonaland Central, Mashonaland East, Mashonaland West, Midlands, Harare, Manicaland, Masvingo, Bulawayo,and Matebeleland North, also revealed that "some registration officials continue to demand bribes from poor peasants," attributed to the poor remuneration of such officials.

ZESN said it had provided a copy of the report to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. But VOA was unable to reach senior ZEC officials for comment on the report.

ZESN Chairman Noel Kututwa told reporter Carole Gombakomba of VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe that one surprise of the monitoring exercise was that traditional leaders often facilitated registration of rural residents irregardless of their party affiliation.

More reports from VOA's Studio 7 for Zimbabwe...