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Voter registration in several parts of Mozambique, ahead of the municipal elections scheduled for 10 October, is still bedevilled by breakdowns of the computers and printers used by the Electoral Administration Technical Secretariat (STAE), reports the latest issue of the “Mozambique Political Process Bulletin”, published by the leading anti-corruption NGO, the Centre for Public Integrity (CIP).
Given tight budgetary restrictions, STAE opted to save money by using equipment from the 2013-2014 registration campaigns, which are now reaching the end of their useful lives. STAE has been able to distribute some new computers, but the Bulletin’s correspondents point to continuing difficulties.
The laptop computers tend to overheat. This forced interruptions in registration at posts in the Ngame primary school in Mandimba district, Niassa province, on 1 May, and the Nataleia school in Malema district, Nampula province, on 4 May.
In Mandimba district, power cuts affected three schools on 6 May, and the back-up batteries provided by STAE proved inadequate. So registration simply stopped. This is particularly serious because Mandimba has the lowest registration rate of any district – as of Sunday, it had only registered 32 per cent of the estimated potential electorate.
In Nhamatanda district, in the central province of Sofala, posts in three schools ran into severe technical problems, and would-be voters waiting in the queues simply gave up and went home.
At the Mambucha primary school in Milange district, the registration brigade ran out of registration forms and out of diesel for the back-up generator on 2 May, so registration had to stop. The Bulletin reports a similar problem from Monapo district in Nampula.
At Nhamayabwe, in Tete province, in the Mapulango primary school, thieves disrupted registration by stealing the equipment on 30 April. Most of the equipment was dumped at the home of a local chief, but the battery and transformer were definitively missing.
Political problems erupted in the Zambezia provincial capital, Quelimane, where the opposition Mozambique Democratic Movement (MDM) claimed that STAE had not sent full registration brigades to Incidua and Sangarriviera neighbourhoods, which are regarded as MDM strongolds. The MDM alleged that in a post in Incidua there was only one brigade member, who could only register 30 people a day.
There are also reports that in some places the ruling Frelimo Party is carrying out a parallel registration, and forcing voters to register with them as well as with the STAE brigades. If true, this is entirely illegal. Such reports have come from Chibuto in Gaza province, from Inhambane city, and from the neighbouring town of Maxixe.
The Bulletin reports several arrests for electoral offences. Thus in Quelimane three people were arrested for attempting to register twice.
In the northern city of Pemba two people were prevented from registering because they were using other people’s identity cards, while in Monapo the brigades stopped the registration of eight people from other districts.
STAE has also explained why the estimated electorate covered by the registration has fallen by almost quarter of a million (from 8,063,892 to 7,817,887). The registration covers all districts that contain municipalities – but the figures from the National Statistics Institute (INE) on which the target of eight million was based failed to take account of a recent reorganisation in which a few existing districts were split into two. Since the newly created districts have no municipalities, registration should not take place there.