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Opposition Parties Back Biometric Voting Processes

A dog looks over a house covered in ice by the coast at Faxe Bay, south of Copenhagen, Denmark.

Some opposition parties in Zimbabwe say the use of a biometric voting system in the country can to eliminate electoral fraud.

Douglas Mwonzora of the MDC led by former Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai says the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission should be encouraged to use this system as opposition parties have been calling for its use over the years.

“We think that the Zimbabwean government must actually look for the money and the international community must also look for the money so that we have a biometric voters’ roll. The demand for a voters’ roll has always been an MDC demand and yes we want a biometric voters’ roll. It must be accompanied by simultaneous electronic voting as opposed to having a biometric voter registration then the actual voting itself is manual. We want a biometric voting.”

ZEC is quoted in the Sunday Mail newspaper as saying they are exploring ways of using the system in the 2018 harmonized general elections.

Mwonzora said if adopted, the biometric system should also be extended to polling booths.

He said the use of biometric voting systems reduces electoral fraud and leads to the compilation of transparent voters’ rolls.

Mwonzora recommended that Zimbabwe should use the Namibian biometric voting system. “There are a number of types of biometric voting. We are advocating for a Namibian system of biometric voter registration and voting. The Namibian system is built to be more comprehensive but it’s expensive.”

Jacob Mafume, spokesperson of the People's Democratic Party, concurred, noting that this kind of voting in used in most developed nations.

“Biometric voting is the way to go. It is the best international practice. Some countries have got biometric identity cards, biometric cards for civil servants and so forth. The advantage is that it has your biological details. In other words your finger prints, your eye print, your DNA. There are certain traits that make up a person, your biological make up that are only unique to you as a person that identify you as that person.

“As Jacob Mafume I have got my biological identity and if we start using that it means that no one can come and start using the name Jacob Mafume because the biometric machine will identify that this is not Jacob Mafume. It will have your picture and so forth even on the voters’ roll there will be your picture besides your name or any other depending on the sophistication of the biometric machinery we are using.

"So we can pinpoint the particular person who is participating in the voting. So, if implemented well with voter education and so forth it is a best international practice.”

Mafume, however, urged ZEC to continue working towards holding free and fair elections through implementing other necessary reforms.

“There are many other confidence builders so if we deal with the biometric voters’ roll we need to deal with the atmosphere of fear. We need to deal with the atmosphere of infiltration of ZEC by security agents. We need to deal with the issue of vote buying, intimidation and violence and also we need to deal with the adjudication process of the elections as you know no election petition has been dealt with merit. So we start with the biometric voters’ roll, work on the other issues.”

Tawanda Chimhini, an election expert and Director of Zimbabwe Election Resource Center, also applauded steps being taken by ZEC in exploring ways of using a biometric voter registration system in which some body parts like the iris are scanned to capture someone’s identity.

Chimhini said this system is among many components of holding transparent elections.

“We are satisfied that at least the Zimbabwe Election Commission has started to consider the adoption of technology in managing electoral processes this having been an argument that has been presented in observations of previous elections in Zimbabwe as part of efforts to improve the integrity of our elections in the country.

“From the onset it must be made clear that a biometric voters’ roll is not a panacea to the challenges we have faced as a nation it’s a step in the right direction but on its own it is inadequate in addressing the challenges that we have faced in elections.”

The government has over the years proposed the use of the biometric voter system. Opposition parties have always complained after almost all national elections about the lack of a proper voters’ roll saying that was fertile ground for electoral fraud.

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