The proposition by ZEC to introduce biometric voter registration (BVR) is a critical and welcome development that is expected to bring about major transformations in the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.
In adopting BVR, Zimbabwe joins a growing trend across the continent and around the world.
The new electronic system is replacing the manual operations which relied on the national identification number and picture for purposes of authenticating the identity of the voter on polling day.
However, implementing the electronic system calls for proper training of election officials in registration and operating the system on polling day.
No registration means one will not vote come 2018.
Compiling a completely new voters roll is a mammoth task that is expected to be accompanied by various challenges especially with regards to how the information is disseminated.
Massive campaigns to educate the populace on the need to re-register even if one has been voting since 1980 and ensuring that the message to register afresh reaches all people so that no one will be disenfranchised come 2018 must not be taken for granted.
In countries that have already adopted BVR, it was noted that inadequate stakeholders’ consultations led to insufficient information and inadequate voter education regarding the new system.
Zimbabwe is also likely to face the same challenge as there are people in hard to reach areas.
There are also those in farming communities who do not have identification documents who want to cast their ballot.
Long and slow queues during the registration processes might end up frustrating potential voters, particularly young people and women who have to attend to other duties.
Creating a completely new voters roll will enable ZEC to make a fresh start and establish a credible voter registration system.
This will not only enhance ZEC’s standing in the eyes of the voting public, but it is also expected to improve the integrity of the entire electoral system.