After initial speculation that the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system was not going to be used in Zimbabwe in the 2018 elections, it was however launched on Thursday 14 September, with President Mugabe being the first person to register.
BVR later opened to everyone on Monday amidst a poor turnout and was made even worse by some challenges stemming from the system itself.
By Pearson Mbendera
With only two registration centres in Harare, one in Mbare and another in Chitungwiza, you would think that this is the only problem that the BVR system has, but alas, there are many problems with the system, some technical, some are not.
Elections are a big deal in Zimbabwe, and people would have expected massive turnout for registration, but that wasn’t the case.
Few people turned out to register to vote using this new system. The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) did not do much to create the needed awareness of the new voter registration system.
But this isn’t about the system; this is about the lacking of good publicity created for the registration process. There are many people who are not aware of the BVR or where they should go to register, something we can only blame ZEC for. With all the media in Zimbabwe including various social media platforms, generating good publicity shouldn’t be hard to do.
There aren’t enough registration centres
In Harare, Bulawayo and Chitungwiza combined; there are only 3 registration centres while there are many centres in other areas in Zimbabwe. Surely the whole country can benefit from more centres that will see the speeding up of the registration process.
Given the fact that the system is already slow and requiring millions of people to register, many registration centres would help speed it up. People have been used to registering in their specific wards, but that cannot be done this time around since there aren’t enough BVR kits to go around. This technology costs money, meaning the government cannot avail enough kits to be used in all the small districts in this country.
There are glitches in the system
By 7pm, a meagre number of people managed to register due to some serious technological glitches. It either took too long to register one person, or there were some other problems casting doubt to the new system.
Some people in Masvingo and Bulawayo found out that their wards’ names were not in the system, and they were told that it would take long to rectify the problem. Given that registration will end on the 15th of January, there might be enough time to sort out those issues.
David Coltart was one of the victims of the glitches of the system after the BVR failed to record his fingerprints. Given the fact that we have a good fingerprint system that we use for national IDs and passports, one wonders how we fail to fashion the BVR from such working system.
News of the Russians tempering with the US presidential elections that resulted in Donald Trump being the victor have just shown us that technology isn’t perfect in as much as elections are concerned, and given the various concerns we already have with regards to elections in Zimbabwe, some doubts over the elections have already started to come out.
With MDC challenging the President’s proclamation dates for the BVR, it remains to be seen what will become of this BVR.
However, BVR is a good system that may erase some of the problems people have with voter registration and the voters’ roll in Zimbabwe, but given the problems with the system right now, it casts doubt on the whole electoral system.