The newsroom debate

The Mmegi newsroom PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
The Mmegi newsroom PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

With the nation still smarting from the disquieting just-ended voter registration exercise, there are indications that a new cycle of voter apathy may be on the horizon. The public’s apparent disinterest in registering for the upcoming 2024 General Election prompted Mmegi Staffer RYDER GABATHUSE to initiate a discourse with newsroom colleagues. The objective is to discern the reasons behind the nation’s reluctance to register for the impending polls

Although there is a provision for supplementary voter registration in the law, the authorities must be worried as the Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) target of registering at least 1.3 million people for the impending polls remains just wishful thinking. It must, however, be noted that the voter registration exercise was preceded by protracted legal battles between the opposition Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) and the body in charge of elections, the IEC, with the former even having gone to court seeking to observe the voter registration exercise, a prayer which did well at the high court and only to be overturned by the Court of Appeal. The above battle aside, what could be the source of this apathy, which has even left the IEC itself worried about the registration turnout in the first round of the exercise? Mmegi’s Arts&Culture coordinator, Goitsemodimo Kaelo, suggests that while the issue of pushing or encouraging people to register to vote is not entirely the responsibility of the IEC, they have a role in ensuring that people do understand the importance of voter registration. “The IEC did not do enough to empower people on voter registration education,” Kaelo insists.

He holds a strong notion, that “the situation was not helped by the political parties that are yet to conduct their primaries. A voter wants to know first who the candidates are before they decide whether they want to register to vote or not. The voter registration was also marred by controversy, as the UDC case against the IEC took centre stage”. He further suggests that instead of focusing on public education, the IEC was forced to devote its attention to defending the court case. The stable’s sub editor, Morongwa Phala-Goodwill, responded to a query about whether the IEC and its stakeholders adequately promoted voter registration for the elections. She expressed that more effort could have been undertaken. “The IEC and relevant stakeholders in the voter registration process fell short of the targeted 1.3 million voters, raising questions about efforts to attract sufficient numbers,” she adds.

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