The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has been nothing but a pre-21 century entity marred with patriarchal attitude and behavior that find youths as nothing but second class citizens. I have no sweet words for this institution as it has showed no remorse to the youths. The behavior and precedence by ZEC has shown that it is careless for the participation of youths in its entire process. It is imperative that the youths constitute 47% of the voting population (RAU 2103) a significant population to participate in all electoral process. Gawkily they are not even ashamed that a paltry 8.87% was on the 2013 voters roll and seems doing well in keeping youths at bay.
ZEC has been established through the Constitution of Zimbabwe, amendment No.20 of 2013. Established as a commission supporting democracy, democracy is the will of the people by the people for the people. The youths called for the removal of proof of residence for the youths to freely take part in the Democratic process of Zimbabwe through elections.
ZEC in their anti-youth nature included a litany of methods to attain proof of residence they included in the Electoral Regulation of 2017 Bill. Consultations of the Bill were abruptly done probably to disenfranchise the youths for mobilizing each other against the Proof of Residence Section. The bill marked fallout between ZEC and the Youths. ZEC did not bother to engage youths directly despite youths calling for the removal of the whole of section 5 that called for proof of residence. Youths through various platforms tried to engage ZEC, however, the youth unfriendliness of ZEC ruled the day. The Bill was gazette despite the youth voices.
The Commission was petitioned through the #LeaveNoYouthBehind Campaign that saw it fit through wider and national consultations. The ZEC decided to ignore the calls of the youths. ZEC decided to come with what they called an `easy way to get the proof of residence through the VR.9 Form. ZEC through the VR.9 form thought they had done justice in requiring Proof of Residence to register to vote. Early during the launch, ZEC had forgotten that Commissioners of Oaths are not available for free. I assume they assumed that the so called little charge they want was readily available for youths. Alas, youths aren’t employed and seriously do we have to pay to facilitate voter registration. It is a shame that ZEC has smuggled ordinary employees as Commissioners of Oaths to facilitate their ill-researched and advised decision on proof of residence. Although we note the remarkable assistance by Civil Society Organisations including ERC Zimbabwe and ZimRights in providing free Commissioners of Oaths to assist with proof of residence they cannot cover the whole nation.
It came as a shock when I only realized ZEC had already employed its officers for the Biometric Voter Registration Exercise. The advert to such was never seen publicly not sure if it was even done. However, information indicates the advert was restricted to government employees. Thus ZEC employed government employees for the process. What boggles the mind is how ZEC can recruit already employed personnel for the BVR exercise despite having a lot of university and college graduates who are not employed at all. This show the kind of institution we are dealing with when it comes to youths. A ZEC team went to Kenya to learn the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission`s (IEBC) BVR process. Facts stand that the BVR process in Kenya was done by youths. We tend to wonder was it an exchange visit to Kenya or was it a holiday spree because nothing was learnt surely. Zimbabwe has a high unemployment rate compared to Kenya but the Kenyan Election Commission saw it fit to allow youths to be recruited for the BVR process. This clearly shows the manner in which ZEC is towards the youths of Zimbabwe. Youths again through various platforms raised their voices through their usual platforms aired that ZEC had not done justice in the recruitment process.
Since the initiation of the Biometric Voter Registration exercise, ZEC has been dismally getting people to register to vote. ZEC introduced Voter Educators that were conducting door to door campaigns, aspiring to get people to register to vote. As they did with the Voter Registration Officers ZEC chose to recruit government employees much who were adults. They again forgot to recruit youths who constitute 85% of the unemployed. What hurts the most is that these adults were going to mobilize youths to register to vote. ZEC forgot the implications of age gaps between youths and their voter educators. What ZEC has done is successfully keep the youths away from the entire process of electoral participation by using the statue and procedures. Reasonably, ZEC have failed to reach its own target with a margin that is not acceptable vis a vis funds utilized.
Lest we forget, ZEC understood that they are youths without IDS especially the first time voters. Accessing IDs wasn’t and still isn’t easy. The ID is a prerequisite for one to register to vote. During the Blitz, due to the fact that the Blitz lacked a youth perspective, ZEC did not collaborate with the Registrar’s office such that during the Blitz, they could have teamed up and provide ID at the same place as Biometric Voter Registration. This would have seen more youths registering to vote. As usual, ZEC is anti-youth.
ZEC should be ashamed on its conduct seemingly against youth`s constitutional political rights. ZEC should find a youth committee that advises it on youth’s issues for the enhancement of its constitutional functions. Youths should not waiver from demanding a youth friendly ZEC. ZEC should move with time and understand the demographic dividend of youths in Zimbabwe and the Globe. It should understand that we need to #LeaveBoYouthBehind in attaining a democratic nation.
Written by: Tinashe Chirape
Youth Activist, Governance Student, Democracy Champion, Peace Ambassador, Gender apprentice