The Youth Forum Zimbabwe is carrying out monitoring in the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC)‘s voter registration blitz which commenced on the 1st of February 2022. The forum observed a number of challenges and gaps in the blitz. Pindula News presents the forum’s Youth Situational Analysis:
Voter registration Blitz: Youth challenges and gaps
Youth Forum Zimbabwe is carrying out monitoring of the voter registration blitz which commenced on the 1st of February 2022. The period has seen a total of 2700 registration centres being set up in different places across the country to enable citizens to access voter registration close to their places of residence.
Positively the blitz lessens the cost of voter registration by reducing cost of transport and related logistical expenses of traveling to far distant registrar’s offices.
Youth Forum has been on record calling for the urgent need to recuse the cost of participating in democratic processes with voter registration on the top of the list.
While the voter registration blitz has helped to reduce the cost at least at a logistical level, there are many other hindrances that obtain during the period observed by youth Forum Zimbabwe’s monitoring teams. The following sum up some of the key issues observed at various centres in Harare, Mash East, Mash Central, Bulawayo, Masvingo and Midlands Provinces.
Low voter Registration turnout by the Youth Most of the voter registration centres visited by Youth Forum Zimbabwe had very low voter registration turnout in general and specifically of the youth.
Youth Forum observed the low voter registration turnout to be an outcome of many factors among them lack identity documents, general retreat from political processes by the youth and the state of the economy. One officer in ward 16, confirmed that there was very low voter registration turnout of the youth. She attributed the low turnout to the state of the economy which is too informalized.
“Youths have no time to come and register to vote. They wake up early in the morning to hustle in town and come back at twilight even during weekends”
Lack of Identity Documents
One of the biggest barriers to voter registration as observed by YFZ, is the lack of identity documents. As a requirement, for a person to register to vote they must have an identity card which can be in form of a national ID or passport. These documents, however, are not easy to acquire because of the many foibles in the ministry of home affairs.
Youths from both the urban and rural areas confirmed that they can’t register to vote because they have no identity documents and that their efforts to get them had been to no avail.
Youth Forum Zimbabwe continues to call for the urgent redress of systems in the home affairs department to ensure easy access to identity documents. Access to these documents allows the youths to participate in democratic processes and enable them to have a voice. Before the second round of the voter registration blitz in April, there is urgent need that the government embarks on an Identity Documents blitz to create equal opportunities for all citizens to register to vote.
Lack of information
Youth Forum also observed huge dearth of information and misinformation among the youths and citizens in general on the current voter registration blitz. Part of the lack of information involved the shifting of centres of registration in the wards. Many young people visited registration centres that had been abandoned or that are yet to be opened. There was a misperception that registration centres would be permanently established at each of the announced places. The lack of information while not too huge affected the youth demographic group which is already low on voter registration turnout. The challenge calls for stakeholder collaboration to engage in robust civic education.
Secondly, many youths became motivated to register after the pronouncement of the 26 March by-election. The understanding is that one can register to vote during the current blitz and be able to vote in the by-election. Such lack of information and misinformation could lead to a crisis of expectation which will not be supported by processes on the ground. Youth Forum Zimbabwe continues to provide clear information that those that register in this current voter registration blitz will not be able to vote during the by-elections but can vote in the forthcoming general elections of 2023.
Re-emergency of Political ViolenceBy-elections and 2023.
Youth Forum notes with concern the re-emergence of political violence in some parts of the country as the nation drives towards the 26 March by-elections. The isolated cases have brought back memories of the violence of 2008 and the preceding years which saw hundreds of people, particularly opposition supporters being killed, tortured, and abducted. The recent Kwekwe central political violence and the violence in Harare East are the latest cases of politically motivated violence which saw destruction of property, torture, intimidation, and general inflammation of the political environment. The violence comes at a time the country is preparing for the by-elections and the general elections of 2023.
Speaking after the confiscation of her branded vehicle and the subsequent vandalization of the car, the aspiring candidate for Kwekwe central constituency bemoaned the reemergence of political violence in Kwekwe and that the situation was unfortunate.
“Kwekwe central has previously experienced deep-seated political violence and it’s unfortunate that the scourge seems to be coming back” Youth Forum Zimbabwe continues to engage young people across the country to build tolerance among political parties and desist from political violence.
The Kwekwe violence is worrying in that it involves a female and youthful candidate. At a time when the country and the world is pushing for increased female and youth leadership, political violence begets fewer to non-female and youthful candidates participating in electoral processes.
Youth Forum will continue to engage all parties and stakeholders to work to build tolerance and avoid political violence. PVO Bill- An attack on citizens.
The Private Voluntary Organisations (PVO) bill gazette last year is an attack on the citizens of Zimbabwe who have benefitted from the work of PVOs since independence. The PVO bill as pronounced by the government seeks to regulate the operations of the PVOs and to comply with recommendations of the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) a multilateral watchdog body against terrorist financing and money laundering. Specifically, the bill is said to be following recommendation number 8 which focuses on combatting terrorist financing through Non-Profit Organisations (NPOs) as part of the ongoing global campaign against terrorist financing.
Undesirably, the recommendation has become a tool of attack on the work of NPOs specifically Civil Society Organisations who are perceived to be against the state. This is despite the vital role that CSOs play in Zimbabwe and the promise of an open and democratic Zimbabwe by the incumbent regime.
Over the years, NPOs have played a vital role to provide services to citizens, to amply their voices and to keep a check on the state. They have complemented government efforts in the face of economic meltdown, disasters and other ills befalling citizens. An attack on them is therefore an attack on the millions of Zimbabwe who pin their hopes and trust on NPOs. The Afro barometer noted that a bigger percentage of Zimbabwean citizens trust the church and NPOs a clear sign of how NPOs have managed to build a solid relationship with citizens.
Youth Forum Zimbabwe believes that a mature democracy can only be attained through allowing various players to operate with a view to advance citizens interests. YFZ bemoans the continued democratic regression and authoritarian consolidation by the state which seems to be gathering pace as the nation drives towards 2023 general elections.
Youths in Harare South have benefitted from the interparty dialogues being carried out by Youth Forum Zimbabwe. The dialogues are meant to provide safe platform for youths to discuss their challenges outside of their political affiliations.
Participants in the dialogues have commended YFZ for organising these inclusive dialogues without discrimination on political parties and gender. The dialogues are bearing fruits as youths are beginning to get involved and to demand space for their participation.
One of the girls, Juliet who is still in school got interested in the idea of Youth participation as presented during the dialogue. She registered to be a member of YFZ and has been asking questions through contact numbers on voter registration and how she can be able to access platforms to educate her fellow peers.
Juliet is a resident of Stoneridge, who could not afford the two dollars to go to the city centre to register to vote. She is happy that the voter registration blitz has brought registration centres closer to her place of residence. She hopes to meet her councilor to share her ideas on how to improve her community. Juliet envisions a Stoneridge with active youths who register to vote, information centres, recreational facilities, and livelihood options for the youths.
The dialogue held by YFZ rejuvenated her efforts to engage duty bearers and improve her community. She is a true testimony of how knowledge provision can transform communities and turn the plight of the youth in Zimbabwe.