We are 15 months from 2018 elections | 4 Things CSOs need to do now!

By Nkanyiso Ncube
It is exactly 15 months before Zimbabwe take a step to decide its future for the next five years. The time we need to use our hands to change our destiny. Within such a short time a lot hasn’t been done and one wonders if Zimbabwe is still on course with its preparations ahead of 2018 elections.
Yes, 2018 general elections present us with the opportunity to decide our future. But is everyone aware of the progress done by our government so far?
Below we take a look at some critical elements that civil society groups need to do before 2018 elections.
Promotion of voter education
Voter education is a vital element to the build-up of any election. Voter education provides potential voters with the necessary information to make an informed choice in the voting booth. Successful voter education ensures that voters are ready, willing, and able to participate fully in the election process. Voter education is essential to ensuring voters are well-informed and can effectively exercise their voting rights and express their political will on Election Day.
However, the government hasn’t procured the new voting system kits. This means at this moment no voter registration exercise is going to take place anytime soon. Zimbabwe’s population constitute a huge chunk of young people standing at 60%, constituting a bigger population of first time voters who at this point to be educated on the importance of voter registration.
Demonstration on the use of ballot papers
In past elections, a lot of spoiled ballot papers have been thrown away as polling officers could not ascertain where the voter wanted to cast their vote. The spoiling of ballot papers is rampant especially in the rural areas where a lot of rural people don’t know where to put an X as they hadn’t had demonstrations before on how to use and make sure their vote count.
It is important for civil society groups to educate the masses on the use of ballot papers and avoid making errors.
Education on the new voter registration system
Zimbabwe is set to start re-registering voters for the 2018 elections as the last voter registration is outdated, full of ghost voters. With the new system set to be introduced few people know about this and this could cause a lot of confusion if the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission doesn’t educate the masses about this new system.
During the Norton by-elections that were held late last year saw a lot of people who thought were eligible voters being turned away because there were not aware of the new voter development.
ZEC needs to step up its effort and ensure that people know and embrace the new technology especially those in rural areas
The BVR kits are meant to provide a modern, transparent voter registration process and are part of the measures that are being taken to ensure fair elections.
Mobilize young people to participate in the electoral process
Encouraging young people to participate in the electoral process could be the hardest thing that any political party or civil organization could do. Young people have not been voting because the election process  lacks credibility and the youth have lost lack onfidence in political leaders. Virgin voters constitute a big population in this group and there is a need for civil society groups to step up and reach out to young people and educate them on how their votes could make a difference and decide the future they want.

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