By Darlington Gatsi
A HIGH court has dismissed an application by legislator Allan ‘Rusty’ Markham demanding the release of electronic voters’ roll to be used in the upcoming general elections.
Markham launched an application last year cornering ZEC to release the voters’ roll in electronic format.
Through his lawyer, Trust Manjengwa, the Harare North MP argued that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was acting unconstitutionally by failing to release the electronic voters roll.
Manjengwa argued that the costs of accessing voters’ roll in hard copy are exorbitant and the law provides for one to access it in any form.
ZEC pegged more than US$140 000 access to the hard copy of voters’ roll.
ZEC through its lawyer Tawanda Kanengoni rebuffed Markham arguments saying it was too risky to release the electronic version of voters roll as it is susceptible to manipulation.
Kanengoni cited data analyst and electoral watchdog Team Pachedu’s tweets as ample proof that the electronic version of voters roll can be tampered with if released adding that ZEC has not breached its constitutional mandate as the voters’ roll can be accessed in hard copy.
He further argued that ZEC had not refused to release the voters’ roll but was tightening its security features to prevent temparing.
In delivering his judgement Justice Never Katiyo said Markham approached the court prematurely as there was room for engagement.
Justice Katiyo also added that the voters’ roll was a sensitive document to be dished out without addressing security concerns.
“Lawyer representing respondent also argued that we now have the Cyber and Data protection Act and under sec 13 and 18, ZEC is protected to safeguard people’s data from manipulation and misuse.
“The intention of the legislature was to have this voters’ roll put to the public without fear or favour so that it would open in a democratic society.
“The constitution is also clear that the mandate to compile and share the roll is with ZEC. The applicant other than being a citizen is a legislator and that cannot be ignored.
“He was asked if he was doing it on his personal interest and he said he wears all faces as alluded to. Case authorities have been cited and some seem to bear non-relevance in this case…the question is whether the respondent acted reasonably.
“Applicant said he wanted an electronic voters roll further applicant qualifies as a person to get that voters roll, he argues hard copy is tantamount to giving him a mountain.
“Courts are there to protect citizens as mandated, judicial officers that they discharge the duty without fear or favour. The law gives ZEC control over the voters roll. This was done with a purpose in mind, that in this time with social media can brew disaster hence mandating Zec to ensure the security of the electronic voters roll is secure,” said Justice Katiyo.