The Opposition from Zanzibar and the Mainland closed ranks and demanded that the permanent voter register (PVR) in the isles should not be used to qualify voters to take part in a referendum to decide on the new constitution, after the constitutional parliament endorses it. Opposition Chief Whip (Chadema) who is also Shadow Minister for Justice and Constitutional Affairs, Mr Tundu Lisu (Singida East-Chadema) said ‘shehas’ (sheriffs) have been denying eligible Zanzibaris the right to register as voters in the permanent register because of directives from some senior executive officials. “Shehas have been denying people registration because of lack of residency identity cards required for one to register as a voter, which if not properly checked, can mean that these people will also not take part in a planned referendum,” Mr Lissu argued while debating the 2013 Referendum Bill.
Mr Lissu also opposed allowing National Electoral Commission (NEC) to preside over the exercise, saying it lacks independence, hence the need for a completely different body. He argued that even the conduct of the referendum may be unconstitutional because there is no provision allowing such an exercise in the current constitution. “Honourable Speaker, let’s not endorse a bill which goes against the constitution and will hence become null and void immediately it gets assented,” Mr Lissu warned.
At this juncture, MPs from Zanzibar’s main opposition party, the Civic United Front (CUF), took turns in opposing use of the isles permanent voter register as a tool of reference to allow people to take part in the referendum.
Chwaka lawmaker (CUF) Yahaya Kassim Issa claimed that ‘Shehas’ are operating as demi gods in the isles, frustrating mainly opposition supporters. “Elections in Zanzibar are an exercise that rekindles serious hostilities but let us not allow this to happen with the referendum, which is a Union matter,” Mr Issa argued.