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Zimbabwe's Fresh Voter Registration Exercise Begins Ahead of Anticipated Poll

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Zimbabwe’s Registrar General Tobaiwa Mudede on Monday appeared before a parliamentary committee where he was quizzed about his department’s ability to capture all eligible voters for registration ahead of this year’s election.

Though complaining the government has given them less money for voter registration, Mudede said Zimbabweans should not wait until the last minute to register to vote. He added everyone who wants to participate in the country’s electoral processes should take advantage of the fresh 30-day mobile registration exercise that began Monday.

Mudede, whose department has been criticized for maintaining a shambolic voters’ roll, told the parliamentary defense and home affairs committee he’s optimistic the voter registration exercise would be successful even in the absence of enough funds. He said the department does not have enough cameras and power generators for the exercise.

Unlike in previous exercises where only one team was deployed per district to register voters, the fresh registration exercise has four teams working in each district and spending three days in each ward.

According to the constitution, the teams should stay in each ward for 30 days, lawmakers argued. But Mudede said it was impossible to do so due to resource constraints.

He said the department needs $104 million to have teams spending 30 days in each ward. Mudede said the department was allocated $13 million for the fresh voter registration exercise.

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On the contentious issue of the co-called aliens, Mudede said those that have documents written alien would be registered as voters. But, he said, those without documentation will not be considered.

He said aliens without documentation should seek assistance from the Registrar General’s district offices. Refugees, Mudede said, should be cleared by the immigration department before their citizenship applications can be entertained.

Defense and home affairs committee chairman Paul Madzore said the lawmakers will visit some registration centers to assess the voter registration exercise.

This, he said, would allow the committee to gather evidence and public opinion about the exercise as well as assess Mudede’s office and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission’s preparedness ahead of the elections.

The mobile voter registration started with a low turn-out in most areas. Listeners from some areas said they had not seen any teams from the Registrar General's office or the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. In Epworth, Harare, some residents complained they were being forced to go to registration centers by a suspected Zanu PF group.

Civic organizations contacted by VOA said they did not to go into the field to monitor the process as they waited for ZEC to accredit them.

The Joint Monitoring and Implementation Committee also failed to monitor the exercise, an official said, adding ZEC has not responded to JOMIC's request for accreditation.

Election expert Jack Zaba told Studio 7 reporter Jonga Kandemiiri that the new voter registration exercise showed ZEC was well-prepared unlike in the previous one where political parties in the country agreed the elections body had failed dismally.

"We started maybe on a commendable note especially when we focus on the preparations towards the commencement," he said.