Political parties-government clash over BVR kits procurement

Charles Mabhena

Opposition political parties in the national Electoral Reform Agenda and the Coalition of Democrats (CODE) have vehemently rejected proposals by government to procure Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) Kits.

The position by the political parties comes after statements attributed to the Minister of Finance disclosed that the government has decided to take over procurement process from the United Nations Development Programme.

“We are told that somehow the government has miraculously secured the money for the procurement of the kits although we have not been advised of the actual amount that the government secured as well as the source of this money,”asked the parties in a statement issued on Tuesday evening.

The political parties say the move by government will derail the positive interaction and dialogue that had been   between the Zimbabwe Election (ZEC) the political parties and other stakeholders on ways to improve Zimbabwe’s electoral system.

Through this dialogue and in concurrence with political parties ZEC engaged experts from UNDP.

In preparation for the Biometric Voter Registration process, a polling station mapping exercise is already underway in the country and political parties are participating actively through the mapping subcommittees which provide oversight to the ZEC Mapping Sub-committee.

Subsequently, ZEC has invited five representatives of political parties to witness the opening of the bids which was being done in Copenhagen. Together the UNDP country Director, ZEC chairperson Rita Makarau advised the political parties and the nation on the remaining steps to be taken in procurement of the kits.

“We were assured that the political parties would be allowed to monitor the remainder of the procurement process. We should state that on the onset of that as political parties we were satisfied with the level of transparency at that stage of procurement of the BVR kits.

“It is against this background that both NERA and CODE were taken aback by the government announcement that it is taking over the procurement process. More shocking was the decision by government to elbow out UNDP in this process. Even more flabbergasting was the decision by ZEC to endorse this illegal move by the government,” read the statement.

In terms of the constitution, ZEC is an independent institution. The current move by the government to stop a transparent procurement system by ZEC, through the UNDP is a serious assault on the independence of ZEC.

The chairperson of ZEC Justice Makarau has already given a green light to political parties to start voter education programs for their members. However the process is said to be facing hick-ups as ZANU-PF youths and police are often obstructing opposition parties’ meetings.

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