HARARE, President Robert Mugabe has officially launched the start of the voter registration process for Zimbabwe's 2018 general elections, with a call for all Zimbabweans over the age of 18 to register in their numbers.

Zimbabwe holds elections once every five years, with the next one due next year. For the 2018 polls, the country will be for the first time using the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process, which will run for the next four months.

Last week, President Mugabe proclaimed Sept 14, 2017 as the date for the commencement of the voter registration process and Jan 15, 2018, as the last day for registering.

President Mugabe, followed by First Lady Grace Mugabe, and the country's two Vice-Presidents -- Emmerson Mnangagwa and Phelekezela Mphoko -- and their spouses were the first to go through the registration process.

The Biometric Voter Registration is a new registration for all citizens who are 18 years and above, President Mugabe said.

I therefore urge all eligible Zimbabweans to go to their established centres to register in their numbers.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) chairperson Justice Rita Makarau said following the launch, voter registration would commence at all the country's 63 district offices on Sept 18. The ZEC is going to conduct a national blitz for the very first voters' rolls from mid-October, Makarau said. The national blitz will be conducted simultaneously in all the provinces.

During the voter registration drive, registration centres will be set up in all electoral wards across the country, Makarau said, adding that eligible voters were free to register anywhere around the country. However, proof of residence they provide at registration will determine the area and specific polling station where they will be allocated to vote on polling day.

The ZEC said it expected to register up to seven million voters. Responding to criticism on lack of preparedness, Makarau said the electoral body was fully prepared for the polls.

We are ready for this exercise, we would not have sought your (President Mugabe) advice to issue the proclamation if we were not ready, she said. We have the resources financially and our people have been trained on how to operate the kits and are ready to register all Zimbabweans.