We have no reason to deny voters access to voters roll- says Chigumba; adds ZEC however has responsibility to protect data

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By Anna Chibamu

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has said voters have a constitutional right to access the voters roll but the electoral body has an obligation to protect personal information in line with the new Data Protection Act.

ZEC chairperson Priscilla Chigumba was appearing before a joint committee on Justice and the thematic committee on Peace and Security chaired by David Parirenyatwa, Wednesday.

In the committee MDC Alliance Senator Morgan Komichi sought answers on the availability of the voter’s roll, which he said was a critical requisite for the elections.

Elections will be held between July and August this year according to Justice minister Ziyambi Ziyambi.

President Emmerson Mnangagwa is yet to make a proclamation on the harmonised elections date.

Chigumba said: “ZEC does not have power to make its own regulations. We make recommendations on regulations and those regulations are then approved through our parent ministry.

“ZEC has been sued over the voters roll and the High Court has made an order with regards to this issue and the matter has been taken up for an appeal.

“We cannot do anything because the matter is prejudiced so I cannot say because of the court which prohibits me from commenting directly on the issue of the voters roll, so I don’t want to be in contempt of court”.

She added that there was no reason why ZEC would not want voters to have access to the voters roll adding “there is a new piece of legislation which is called the data protection act and has not been aligned with the electoral act.

“This has placed additional responsibility in the Commission to ensure that the format of this data is disseminated to members of the public and we have to protect the data of our voters in accordance with the Data Protection Act.

“We need to have the data protection act aligned to the electoral act.

“As a commission it does not take anything away to give citizens or voters roll as readily as we can but we have an obligation to  ensure that we are compiling data with all pieces of legislation”.

The ZEC chairperson also urged legislators to see how the voters roll is availed to members in other countries in the SADC region.

“The issue has always been the format of how it is released. I urge you to also do research on how some countries are handling such issues. Zimbabwe is better placed compared to other countries.”

Chigumba said ZEC had so far registered six million eligible voters.

“The biometric voter registration exercise process will end two days after the proclamation of the election.

“Voter registration will continue in all the districts until two days after the proclamation”.