Bulawayo – CIVIL society organisations which gathered in the city last week to broadly review the election systems in the country have put considerations forward for the possible adoption of technologically advanced ways of capturing election data such as biometric systems.
The meeting, which was attended by over 100 local civil society leaders, including delegates from East Africa and Southern African Development Community (SADC) was organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN).
“With regards to voter registration the conference noted that biometric voter registration should instil trust and confidence in the electoral process,” ZESN said in a post-conference statement on March 14.
“As such, if Zimbabwe chooses to adopt biometric systems there is need for adequate planning and provision of adequate resources timeously.”
The participants highlighted that the use of technology in electoral systems had its positive and negative aspects, which needed to be fully studied before applying it to the Zimbabwean electoral system.
“Though technology can enhance the integrity of an election, there is need to explore its applicability in the context of Zimbabwe as it has its pros and cons.
“The conference therefore reinforced the need for ZEC [Zimbabwe Electoral Commission] and other stakeholders to interrogate the different approaches and methodologies to voter registration and their applicability to the Zimbabwean context.”
Since 2010, several countries on the African continent have adopted new technologies in the conduct of elections, including Kenya and Ghana.
Kenya adopted the biometric voter registration system in 2010 to minimise election conflict after deadly violence related to vote rigging broke out in the Rift Valley, killing over 1,200 people and leaving 600,000 internally displaced in 2007.
Ghana, after adopting the system in 2012, reportedly registered and verified 13 million people, the equivalent of the population of Zimbabwe, in just two days.
Biometric systems use unique personal attributes such as fingerprints, palm prints, and facial features to identify and verify voters to prevent electoral fraud – the biometric technology itself has widespread use, and has prominently been successful in avoiding fraud in financial institutions such as banks.
The last harmonised election held on 31 July saw the registration process being characterised by long queues, and an estimated 300,000 prospective voters failing to register for the election in the capital Harare alone.
There were also outcries over the use of fake voter registration slips, as well as alleged bussing of voters, which dented the fairness of the election in the eyes of many observers.