Panelists Harrison Mudzuri, Dr William Zivenge, Isaac Muzenda and Tongai Matutu.
Last weekend, the Media Alliance of Zimbabwe (MAZ) held a public dialogue with representatives from different political parties to hear their take on the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system. The panelists made some great deal of effort to clarify their individual as well as their parties' position regarding the contentious issue.
Zanu PF was represented by advocate Isaac Muzenda, PDP was represented by former Zaka Central legislator Harrison Mudzuri while NPP was represented by Dr William Zivenge. MDC-T was represented by former Masvingo Urban legislator Advocate Tongai Matutu.
TellZim News managed to summarise some of the most critical views raised in the dialogue.
Mudzuri: He was very vocal in demonising the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) system. He said the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) now wants to implement BVR because they found out that the previous system had flaws.
He expressed worry that ZEC might not have the expertise needed to implement the system and was also worried with how the electoral body would deal with technical challenges will arise. "BVR comes as a corrective measure to the previous system we have been using of late. Our major worry is that ZEC may fail to address the challenges that may arise during implementation.
"We are not against BVR as a party. However, we say it must be followed correctly from the start. Is it correct now, looking at the regulations imposed by ZEC? The regulations are exposing incompetence and there are a lot of gaps which are there and this means it is not being followed correctly. Chinhu chakanaka chikava mumaoko akashata hazvifambi," he said.
He said BVR, if properly implemented, offered an effective means to reduce double registration and double voting.
He called for the media to educate people on what BVR is said political parties will not be able to misrepresent fact to rural electorate for the purpose of intimidating them. He highlighted that there was need to spread education on BVR with the same zeal that authorities had shown on other programmes like Command Agriculture.
Dr Zivenge: He said the BVR concept itself was good but highlighted that the system had its own weaknesses as it was prone to manipulation.
"BVR is very competitive and it reduces human error, it is automatic and qualitative. BVR is precise in terms of human identification. Data is easy to consolidate and you can't say where there are twelve thousand voters, after voting you end up having 29 thousand votes, so data is easy to consolidate.
"However, in Zimbabwe, it is problematic because there is poor technology appreciation index is 0.1 as compared to Yemen which has five out of seven.
"It is like blindfolding people and ask them to go to a certain point. It is the use of a computer for registration just like what is done when getting national identity cards. However, one thing a computer is known for is data.
"There is a database or a server which no one here knows where it is being stored. There are chances of duplication. One can register here and go to Plumtree and register again if the server is not secured. How can we do checks on duplication if we do not know where the server is? We need to also do trial testing; every party needs to be given a chance to test it through mock or dummy elections to check on loopholes.
"After that, there is need to train the implementers. They have to know of the loopholes then try to tighten them. People need to be educated on how they will register and to check their names as well as having a chance to audit. We have to know where the system is coming from and who will be manning it," said Dr Zivenge.
He juxtaposed the relationship between BVR and ZEC with that of a beautiful woman who gets married to Mr Baboon; the beautiful lady becomes Mrs Baboon by association.
Muzenda: He was very clear on the position of his party regarding BVR. He said all the other parties were crybabies and will be defeated with or without BVR. He said his party was not in any way involved in the procurement of the kits but will be instrumental in teaching people on how it will work once ZEC finishes all the modalities.
"People say we rig elections but the truth is they do not want to face reality. Zanu PF will win any election because it is the popular party.
"If the BVR system will make the opposition happy, then so be it but the truth shall remain and Zanu PF will win again. There are other opposition parties who become emotional when they try to demonise BVR because they lack knowledge on what is being talked about.
"BVR is not a monster as many would like to think and people should not just rush to criticise before gathering all the facts," he said.
Matutu: The youthful lawyer is credited with being the first politician to advocate for the adoption of an electronic voter registration system through a motion he moved in parliament back in 2009 and was seconded by Pishayi Muchauraya.
"We need to have three categories of people whom we need if we want to interrogate this system fully and have a perfect system.
"We need people who think technically, we need those who think legally and have people who can engage in a particular political process and make sure that at the end of the day, we come up with the process that we want.
"The challenge that we have now is to have a full understanding of what is being implemented. This is the challenge yekufunga kuti tichabirwa sei. The issue is not to think kuti tichabirwa because mbavha itoripo. The issue is to think of how to stop it. Let's invest in skills and technical abilities to make sure that BVR becomes the perfect animal that we want.
"We are past the stage of discussing whether BVR is going to be implemented or not. Political parties need to take their time to train people on how they can see and stop the thieves from stealing the votes.
"The media needs to bring the right people who can explain things. We have a problem with people who praise something they have never seen and others who criticise something they have never seen," said Adv Matutu.politics