Zimbabwe steps up electoral reforms




Ziyambi Ziyambi

THE Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) is proposing to include Braille voting and extending privileges to people admitted in hospitals during elections, as part of electoral reforms that will be incorporated into the amended Electoral Act.

This comes as the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs is discussing a draft document on a raft of electoral reforms, and has since presented it to ZEC.

The Government is currently implementing a number of reforms, which include political and economic reforms, as part of the Vision 2030 agenda.

The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, could not shed more light on the draft document presented to ZEC, but confirmed to The Sunday Mail that the Government was working on a raft of electoral reforms.

“I have not seen it (the document), but we are still working on it (electoral reforms),” he said.

ZEC Commissioner, Joyce Kazembe, said the country had also started implementing some of the recommendations suggested by foreign and local observers after the 2018 elections.

“We always get these recommendations after elections. We had a meeting in Nyanga for those who had observed, foreign and local observers as well as Civil Society observers, and we took into account the recommendations that they made. We have begun implementing the recommendations through the electoral reforms,” she said.

“Currently, we are just looking at the submissions from the Parliamentary Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, since we have been engaging them. They just sent a document with proposed reforms, some of them which we proposed even in 2013.

“We have made an input, agreed with them on certain things, and on other things we did not agree.

“Quite a number of issues in the Electoral Act need changing, for example, media monitoring. What we are using currently are the 2008 media regulations, which are highly outdated.

“We tried last time, it did not work. However, we are hoping this will be amended this time around.”

Commissioner Kazembe said ZEC was working on accommodating people with mobility challenges so that they can exercise their right to vote.

“For the visually impaired we are playing around the possibility of coming up with a ballot that they can read,” she said.

“There is also an extension of a postal ballot to anyone who will not be able to vote on voting day, in particular, officials on duty; we get a lot of staff from State institutions.

“We are also contemplating extending this to people with disabilities, since we have been limiting ourselves to people with no physical challenges. So, we are trying to be as broad as possible.

“Like in South Africa, they go to hospitals during voting periods. However, in South Africa, they have no wards to talk about, it is party based, they vote for individuals.

“So we will give them a postal vote and we will have a register which says, this person is in hospital, indicating the polling station.

“These postal votes will be arranged according to the constituency, polling area and ward. All these details will be in an envelope including the number of ballots that we have, that is the President, constituency and wards.

“These will be sent to the person wherever they will be. There will be indications of how the ballots will be brought here and counted, long before everyone else has voted.

“So that by the time everyone votes, these envelopes should be at the wards the person has indicated, so that the vote is not lost.”

The Government has been calling on various stakeholders, including political parties and interest groups, to take advantage of the Electoral Amendment Act to bring forward all contentious issues related to electoral reforms.

Last Friday, the Political Actors Dialogue (Polad) presented a document on a raft of proposed electoral reforms.