Police have given the greenlight to tomorrow’s National Electoral Reform Agenda (Nera) demonstration against the government’s decision to take over the procurement of biometric voter registration (BVR) kits ahead of next year’s elections, NewsDay heard yesterday.
Zimbabwe is preparing for watershed elections next year and a loose coalition of opposition parties under Nera, which is demanding reforms before next year’s polls, has called for the demonstration.
With the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) having indicated its willingness to use BVR, President Robert Mugabe’s lieutenants in both government and Zanu PF have embarked on a campaign to criticise the move as well as claim it would be an unnecessary expenditure.Government has also hijacked the purchase of the kits after initially agreeing to accept funding from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).
After a meeting with the Joint Operations Command yesterday, Nera executive member and MDC-T secretary-general Douglas Mwonzora said they would engage the police again today to finalise the route to be taken.
“The demonstration is going ahead. The police have not banned it, but the route is going to slightly change. We will meet at Freedom Square and we will address people on the standard of behaviour to be expected so that there would be no looting and hooliganism,” he said.
“That is what we undertook to do. The most important thing is that it is going ahead and that for the first time police have not banned our demonstration. We still had an option of going to court if they had banned us.”
During their previous demonstration, Harare was turned into a war zone as protesters fought running battles with police officers who were trying to stop them.
Several properties such as motor vehicles and wares at flea markets were vandalised during the demonstration. Nera denied responsibility for the violent elements that hijacked the demonstration.
Mwonzora said tomorrow’s demonstration was meant to exert pressure on Zanu PF to stop electoral theft.
“We are demonstrating against the decision by government to take over the procurement of BVR kits. As you know, according to the original agreement these were to be procured by the UNDP, but for reasons best known to themselves, the government wants to abandon the UNDP process.
“We think that is a way to try and manipulate the procurement system and the whole BVR thing, which is unacceptable,” he said.
Zec argued it would implement the biometric voting system in order to deliver a credible and undisputed poll outcome next year.