THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission will this week test Biometric Voter Registration kits at polling stations that will be used in the 2018 harmonised elections.
The week-long site validation tests begin on Thursday, with representatives from political parties and observers free to participate. Three Chinese, Belgian and German firms are vying to supply the equipment, and this week’s exercise will help determine the winner.
In an interview with our Harare Bureau last week, Zec Chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said, “We have made progress on the procurement of Biometric Voter Registration kits in that we have now invited three bidders to come for a site validation test, which is going to start on the 20th of April, ending on the 28th.
“We have had confirmations from two of the companies, and one of the companies has actually sent in its itinerary. Its representatives will arrive in the country on 19 April. We are going to involve stakeholders: Political parties, observers, media and civic society organisations. It has got to be a thorough process; that is why we welcome comments from stakeholders and that will hopefully lead us to an informed decision of who to go with.”
Justice Makarau said the rigorous tests will assess the kits’ reliability under the worst possible conditions.
“The site validation tests will also include what we are calling ‘a lab test’. The tests will also include assessing whether the equipment is shockproof. If it drops from the roof of a car, for instance, in rural areas — the car hits a pothole and all the equipment falls out — will they be able to withstand that shock? After that, we will then want the providers of the kits to register the controlled number of voters in a given day. We are going to go to two schools; one in an urban setting and another school in a rural setting.”
Justice Makarau said Zec processes were transparent and effective contrary to opposition claims following Government’s decision to purchase the BVR system without the United Nations Development Programme’s contribution.
“We have not diverted from that process we started with the UNDP. So, the integrity that was there at first is being maintained right up to the end. We made that deliberate decision that we will not go outside the process that we had agreed with UNDP.
“We will also invite the UNDP to participate in the site validation tests, although they are now coming in as observers. If they have any comments, they are free to make those comments.
“The mapping exercise for demarcating polling areas was completed successfully by 14 April. We shall print the maps and we will inform the public of when they can come and inspect the maps and make comments. Completion of these maps means we are now mapping polling areas. Each polling station will have a catchment area and will serve people from that catchment area.
“So, basically, everyone will know where they are supposed to go and vote, and we are encouraging them to go and register so that they familiarise themselves with the polling station. We are still within our timeline (for holding the elections). We are supposed to close voter registration by November 2017 to allow the electorate enough time to inspect the voters’ roll adequately.”