CSOs urged to embark on voter awareness campaigns

BULAWAYO-based human rights and governance consultant Florence Ndhlovu has urged Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in the city to embark on voter awareness campaigns with a view to conscientise citizens on electoral processes.

This comes after it recently emerged that Bulawayo is likely to lose about six constituencies in the next delimitation exercise as the current number of registered voters in the city falls below the minimum threshold. 

“CSOs are encouraged to raise awareness to educate people about the importance of voting. Citizens must be given this information so that they can appreciate the voting process. Also, the delimitation process should be monitored so that it may not have any corruption therein.

“If urban voters and rural voters get mixed then there is a higher chance of rigging the voting process. CSOs need to closely monitor this. Other challenges that may arise due to delimitation processes may include the rise of conflicts over political spaces and ownership of community areas,” Ndhlovu said in a virtual discussion on the delimitation exercise in Zimbabwe electoral system hosted by the Women’s Institute for Leadership Development recently.

According to the delimitation process, a constituency should at least have a minimum of 21 000 registered voters and a maximum of 32 000.

In her presentation, Ndhlovu noted that six constituencies in the city currently have less than the stipulated number of voters, with the lowest having 14 000 registered voters, while the highest has 18 000.

Ndhlovu said if CSOs and other stakeholders do not intervene and encourage people to register to vote, residents were going to pay dearly.

She further noted that the awareness campaigns should also factor in conflict resolution knowledge.

“They (CSOs) should offer legal advice to citizens. There is a need for them to also offer conflict resolutions on boundary issues should constituencies be decreased. Citizens need to understand that if they do not register it would mean that fewer resources would be disbursed to the area meaning there would not be enough for the people,” she said.

This also comes as Zec Bulawayo provincial elections officer, Innocent Ncube said politicians in Bulawayo should start mobilising their supporters to register to vote or else risk losing constituencies.  The elections body will commence the delimitation exercise ahead of the 2023 national elections once the results of the 2022 national census are released.

“It is very sad that Bulawayo is not coming up to register to vote. Since we started in the month of June only one person came to register. 

“In May, 27 people registered and in April only one person registered. If you ask me to calculate the average number of people coming to vote l will tell you it’s zero because l will say 29 people, who showed up in the past three months divided by 70 which is zero. 

“I want to challenge politicians to take this upon themselves to mobilise their supporters to come and register to vote,” Ncube said. 

“Bulawayo is likely to lose two to three constituencies judging from the pace at which people are registering to vote. 

“When now doing our calculations to determine whether a constituency should be dissolved or not, we take the national number of registered voters, we divide by 210 to get the average number of voters per constituency. 

“Given the current status quo, some constituencies are at risk of being dissolved because the average is literally at zero,” he added.