Zimbabwe: ‘Crisis coalition bemoans BVR pace, urges government to demilitarize public institutions ’

By Barnabas Masimba – Crisis Coalition registered their disappointment in the lack of timely implementation of the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) by government saying the slow progress could be a deliberate measure aimed at giving mileage to political parties which have the advantages of incumbency to use prior information to have all their members registered. Speaking at a press conference last week Crisis Coalition National Spokesperson Dumisani Nkomo noted that it is their contention that barely 16 months before the election, there is no clear election roadmap, at best there is neither a road nor a map yet there should be sufficient time in educating and informing the voting public about BVR for it to be effective.

 BVR is a system which captures physical and behavioral features such as fingerprints, the face, iris, signatures and so on. It (BVR) was recommended by the civil society after the contested 2005, 2008, 2013 elections as a credible way of minimizing election fraud and to ensure that a new voter’s roll was in place. Nkomo said BVR can only work effectively if it is accompanied by a broader swathe of institutional reforms. He argued that the success of BVR can only be ensured when the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is demilitarized and every semblance of military, security /intelligence in the secretariat is flushed out as a matter of urgency to instill confidence in the electoral body. He said that some senior members of the security establishment continue to embed themselves in partisan politics and openly siding with the ruling party of which it is a violation of the constitution. Civil society and ordinary citizens continue to be denied space to exercise freedom of assembly and association, organizations are forced to notify the police about all meetings and those without memoranda of understanding are subjected to persecution. Coalition also fired shots at the media for being politicized and being used as the public relations arm of the ruling party to spread propaganda which is a violation of section 55 of the constitution which speaks clearly about the imperative of fair access to the media.

 Crisis Coalition proposed that the public media be depoliticized and all parties must be given equal access to electronic and print media both private and public. Opening the media space will allow for a diversity of voices as the election period spans for over a year and not months. “We also propose that local, regional and international observers be accredited on time to monitor both the B.V.R process and the actual election process. Tenets of the SADC Principles and Guidelines on the Conduct of Democratic Elections must be applied”. He added