As Zimbabwe prepares for a general election in 2018, rights activists are criticizing the government’s decision to reintroduce a proof of residence requirement for voter registration, saying it disenfranchises a large number of potential voters – many of them women. After proposals to relax the rules on proof of residence drew criticism from various political parties, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) in June reinstated the requirement that all voters must produce a document confirming their permanent address before they can register to vote. But activists say the move disqualifies anyone who doesn’t have a fixed address, doesn’t own property or simply can’t get hold of the necessary documentation.
That includes women like Agnes Moyo, who sits on a small bench next to her fruit and vegetable stand every day, waiting for passersby with money to spend. Neither Moyo nor her husband own the house they live in in the densely populated Harare suburb of Glen Norah. And her situation is not unique. The Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) Gender Protocol 2015 Barometer reveals that women’s access to, and ownership of, property and other productive resources in Zimbabwe is very low: Only 9 percent of women in the country own a house, and only 9 percent own a piece of land.
Even if she owned her home, Moyo says she would struggle to find the time and money to secure a notarized affidavit confirming her address, which can cost up to U.S. $1 per person. On a good day, she makes between $2 and $5, but good days are rare in Zimbabwe’s current harsh economic climate.
“Where will I find the money to buy an affidavit and have it signed by a commissioner of oaths?” she says.