HARARE, ZIMBABWE — An independent audit of Zimbabwe's voters roll has found it contains the names of more than a million people who either are deceased or have left the African country. The research group that conducted the audit spoke to reporters Wednesday after the government blocked it from making a presentation to civil society groups. The findings come less than two weeks before Zimbabwe is due to hold national elections.
The Research and Advocacy Unit [RAU] was supposed to present the findings of its audit of the voters roll on Wednesday to pro-democracy civic organizations in Harare. But the event was canceled on government orders, said Kuda Chitsike, who heads the RAU.
“The Registrar General left an interdict at our offices from the High Court to stop the event from going ahead," said Chitsike. "The Registrar General’s interdict is based on a misconception that we wanted to launch the voters’ roll. RAU was going to launch an analysis done on the voters’ roll. The chairperson of ZEC and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission are aware that RAU has been working on such an audit.”
Analysis of voters roll
The electoral commission had asked the Registrar General’s office - a government department - to compile a voters’ roll for the July 31 elections, which RAU then analyzed.
Besides revealing that the voter roll has more than a million people who are either deceased or have left Zimbabwe, RAU said there is a marked registration bias in favor of rural constituencies, which are mainly strongholds of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF party.
Jeremiah Bamu of the advocacy group Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights is hopeful RAU will be allowed to present the audit, which also found that 63 constituencies have more registered voters than inhabitants based on the 2012 census.
“We have communicated with lawyers representing the Registrar General’s office and alerted them that their application is based on something that is not correct. We supplied them with correct information," said Bamu. "What might have influenced the Registrar General to block this presentation."
"The usual fears that they have that people have access to the voters roll and can identify some inconsistencies,” he said.
The lawyer added that the case would spill into court if the government does not allow RAU to make public its audit of Zimbabwe voters’ roll.
MDC makes court challenge
Already, the Movement for Democratic Change [MDC] party of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai is in court challenging special early voting of Zimbabwe’s police and security forces.
The voting this week went on three days, one more than the constitutionally-mandated limit of two.
The MDC also is arguing that the electoral commission inflated the number of security agents in order to rig the elections for Mugabe and his party. The case will continue Thursday at Zimbabwe’s high court where the MDC is seeking to have these early votes nullified.
Even before this controversy, the elections appeared beset by trouble. Last week, Finance Minister Tendai Biti warned that Zimbabwe was about $90 million short in election funding.
The elections, if they go through, are expected to end the power-sharing government formed by Mugabe and Tsvangirai after the violent and disputed 2008 elections.