When the idea of Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) was first pitched, numerous theories and myths emerged as to what it was, what it was meant for.
Some wondered; will it address the so called electoral blemishes which were the intonation of “reforms” demanded by the opposition. To the educated elite there was no fuss about it, to the educated only, confusion contested with their brain, to the common man it was worse; BVR became a consecrated process or a machine which was only known by a few reserved citizens.
I am sure you can attest to this as you read about connotations that surrounded the advent of BVR in Zimbabwe.
The irony of it was how the same folks who have always demanded electoral alterations, especially in the form of a sparkling voter registration began chastising the very process they chanted for.
To me, and many others who have been following the politics on the streets, we couldn’t help but question the confusion en`masse which our colleagues in opposition bore.
We were left to sit, watch and wait for the mythologised BVR which was divulged to us by our opposition friends as a flawed system mechanised to steal votes in 2018. As usual we waited to see.
The build-up to the commencing of the voter registration process was nothing dissimilar from any other political theatrics we are accustomed to which seems to be the new alternative for employment for our friends, home and abroad who are now proficient Twitter and WhatsApp political analysts who took turns to explain what BVR is.
Precipitously Jack and Jill became IT specialists who used coding language deciphering how an electronic database system for voters was to operate and how it will fail, not because of hardware or software malfunctions, but because it is managed by Zimbabweans.
Like any other time when they are confused, we sat, watched and waited to see.
To my friends at the market and I, this was nothing amazing save for the new storyline, this time it was no longer about shutting down the country or even halving the country.
As time passed with each day announcing us to a monstrous depiction of the voter registration process we also drew closer to the commencement of that dreadful yet meaningful and important process.
The chronicle shifted from the tired qualms of advanced electoral fraud to why our electoral processes should be externally funded.
For some time we were fed with propaganda of why it is important for UNDP to fund our electoral process of BVR requisition.
The term BVR stuck on almost everyone’s mouth by then because everything became BVR this, BVR that which by then we had no idea of or almost had, for the immediately fortunate, to the elite there still was no fuss. As time peddled past, we sat, watched and waited to see if our own market definitions of BVR were true or not, surely time is the best teller that we were sure of; like my grandmother always says “umhlaka 54 uyafika kuphela”.
I concur that electoral systems should be transparently free and fair in order to produce our preferred result but we should not be so suspicious of our very own to the point of opting for the very people responsible for many of our predicaments to run the show for us, which is an absolute spectacle of our national weakness.
These are sentiments shared by many in the streets, especially when opposition thinks it can find solace outside the borders, especially from vanguards of historically racial systems.
The very offspring and beneficiaries of our African exploitation, kingmakers of global capitalism who care about nothing except reaping from our lands and depict us as fools and scavengers — that is where opposition parties in Zimbabwe miscue — a reflexive ignorance of patriotism and national appreciation.
Our electoral officiating board began to broadcast information about what BVR is later on.
I don’t know if this was an already calculated move to do so when all racket has rescinded, or, it was in response to the pressure piled by the opposition which by then was also confused by its numerous definitions and descriptions of BVR. What still sticks is how clear and simple the explanation by the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) was such that opposition was rapidly disarmed.
Surely all props should go to the one who is advising many of our old opposition parties, the lad is a genius at making them clowns because he never runs out of tired ideas. From the presence of clarity by Zec, the next crusade was a personal attack on the person of the chairperson of Zec. I felt pity for the poor servant of the country as she was subjected to weirdly knit scrutiny and all sorts of laboratory distilled descriptions all in the name of discrediting the BVR.
She suddenly became synonymous with the BVR. We asked, who then is fit if not her? Do you want to install your own “fit” person, to what end?
Do we not trust ourselves that much such that we would want our elections to be run by outsiders? Please refer us to one election of theirs where they called you to officiate. This may sound simplistic but it is very important to the man on the street who is tired of being taken for a political ride and is still suffering.
Well, time never lies, the days drew closer and the BVR kit testing began and opposition was ecstatic to see the testing fail. I remember the shift from the persecution of Justice Rita Makarau to how the BVR was not rural compliant, again we wondered what that meant.
We silently were treated to dosages of how some of the kits were not water resistant and calculations of how many servers can service each kit.
We were taken back to ICT lessons for more than a month when suddenly everyone on Twitter and WhatsApp again became a computer repairmen, describing how networking operates, systems of network topologies, downward and upward multiplexing of data, optic transfer of information per second and all that computer jargon which we learnt when online discussions resumed on a different theme but the same subject.
The common man sat, watched and waited because all this jargon still did not explain the importance of one being eligible to cast their vote and contributing their voice to the political space of the country they so love.
Likewise, the day came and voter registration began and it was pretty slow. We can attribute this to how the process was described especially by our friends in the opposition.
We cannot undermine their influence to public opinion, which we should give them because the public especially in the urban areas depends on the opposition for a political opinion.
They told us that the requirements barred many from registering. We were told that to register we need a valid national identity document or a passport and proof of residence and an affidavit if you don’t own the property.
There was an interesting coincidence because that is the time Khuxman released his song “amaloja” which speaks of a sour relationship between the landlord and the tenant and this brought up more questions, what will happen to many of us abangamaloja whose landlords are not in the country or the landlord is simply a wasp.
It was the end of the road for most of us considering that the bulk of us do not own even a dog.
This was the dilemma we were in and the image of Zec requirements depicted was so grotesque to entertain those with no property. It was as if the criteria of voting is now based on property ownership — taken back to Rhodesia.
I should say, many stories about the BVR emerged from the first time it was publicly debated but one story remained — THERE WERE MOSTLY LIES if not all lies. One revered former Senator once posted that the process took him an hour thirty minutes and lambasted the whole process but it still did not deter us from going to experience — the Thomas syndrome grappled us — sikholwa ngokubona.
I should say it’s obvious that the first days of any important and huge process are not as smooth as it gets going.
When I went to register I only had my National ID without this proof of residence or affidavit.
They gave me a form which I completed and the commissioner of oaths stamped it and in exactly 4 minutes 23 seconds I was registered and back to my business — how comical considering the myths surrounding it in the build-up.
Interestingly is how opposition parties are now engrossed in voter registration mobilisation, so suddenly the system is reliable? Hmmm…. Interesting times we are living in.