HARARE – The Zimbabwe Republic Police has upped the ante on culprits demanding serial numbers from voters’ registration slips, with the law enforcement agency warning the practice is illegal and criminal.
This comes amid rising cases of voter intimidation, with traditional leaders and ruling party supporters being implicated.
“It is a criminal offence for any citizen to coerce another citizen and take down or record their voter registration serial numbers and voter registration details,” the police warned in a statement, adding that individuals who fall victim to such threats should report to the nearest police station.
Though it is said that the noting of serial numbers is of no effect, the demands spook voters and violate their privacy.
Recently, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) met with the leadership of political parties and demanded that their members stop harassing and intimidation of would-be voters in line with the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates.
Zec acting chairperson Emmanuel Magade said: “Our attitude is that the question of serial numbers is that of Zec and the voter and no third party has the right to demand serial numbers from voters. We hope everyone will comply with that position.
“We don’t want anything that will taint this registration process and undermine the credibility or integrity of the voter registration process.”
In terms of enforcing compliance, Magade said the commission’s hands were tied as it had no “enforcement mechanisms” adding that they will continue to appeal for peace and tolerance while those who are aggrieved may seek recourse at the courts.
“We hope that all political players will heed our advice. We hope that everyone sees sense in what we are saying,” Magade said.
Last week, Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi warned that those found guilty of demanding voter registration slips from prospective voters during the on-going Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) will be arrested.
He told the National Assembly on Wednesday while responding to a question by MDC Glen View North MP Fani Munengami, who demanded to know what government was doing to ensure voters are not intimidated by alleged Zanu PF officials and traditional leaders.
Some Zanu PF officials and traditional leaders are reportedly demanding that voters furnish them with serial numbers of their registration slips. Ziyambi said: “Everyone, regardless of which political party they belong to, if they act unlawfully, there are police officers who are assigned to protect and ensure that the laws are not broken.”
“So, if there are any unlawful actions being done during voter registration, the police officers will be there to do their work and arrest unscrupulous persons who disturb peace,” he said.
“What is lawful in terms of voter registration is written in the Constitution. If there is something that you notice is unlawful, the Zec officials will be present for you and the police officers will also be there.
“Lawful actions should therefore be followed which is according to the statutes.”
Ziyambi, however, went on to accuse Zec of failing to adequately educate voters ahead of the BVR exercise, in order to protect them from intimidation by politicians.
He argued that adequate voter education would have informed prospective voters that even if their serial numbers were taken, they cannot be used in the voting process, hence it has no effect.
“Voter education is conducted by Zec and if it along with other stakeholders had educated the voters they would know that this has no effect because they would have been empowered,” Ziyambi said.
“However, we have already indicated to Zec that they should scale up their voter education campaign to make sure that this is resolved once and fall”.
Independent observers and poll monitors have reported a marked increase in interference and abuse of the on-going BVR exercise by the ruling Zanu PF, especially in the countryside.
So far 5 112 370 were registered to vote in the forthcoming elections, as at January 27, 2018.