Parly resumes sitting. . . Electoral Amendment Bill expected to take centre stage

Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi
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PARLIAMENT resumes sitting today following a three-week break with the Electoral Amendment Bill expected to take centre stage as the country looks forward to the harmonised elections to be held later this year.

According to the National Assembly’s Order paper which outlines the business of the House, the august House meets today with a number of Bills expected to be tabled chief among them, the Electoral Amendment Bill.

The Electoral Amendment Bill is expected to be fast- tracked to ensure that amendments are effected in time for the elections.

On the Notices of Amendments are proposed amendments by the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, Ziyambi Ziyambi, MDC-T Chief whip Mr Innocent Gonese and MDC Matabeleland South (proportional representation) legislator Ms Priscilla Misihairabwi-Mushonga.

Minister Ziyambi Ziyambi yesterday said the Electoral Amendment Bill came into effect through the regularisation of the biometric registration system after the passing of Statutory Instrument 117 of 2017 on Electoral Amendment.

“If you look at the Electoral Amendment as it is, you will find out that it talks about issues to do with biometric voter registration. It has nothing to do with what they are clamouring for to say that the executive does not want to give effect to Electoral Amendment reforms. It was not there.

“It’s actually the Government that proposed that not the other way round. All other issues came because of the new dispensation to say that what are the other issues to deal with and we have accepted most of the amendments brought by Honourable Gonese,” said Min Ziyambi.

He said among other amendments were the removal of the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission from the multi-party liaison committee on elections.

“We are bringing an amendment that was proposed by the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission to say that they cannot be part of the multi-party liaison that looks into electoral disputes. That will compromise them because they cannot be in the committee with the police and other executive bodies and then they are supposed to be monitoring Human Rights issues,” Minister Ziyambi said.

“Their job is to monitor human rights issues whether elections are there or not. So they came up and said they don’t want to be in that committee and we agreed and we are going to remove them.”

He said they were also introducing an amendment on polling station-based voting.

“So, we have realised that some polling stations will have more than 1 500 people so we are going to amend the Act to have satellite polling stations around the actual polling station and also we have the issue of the Registrar of Voters now being the Registrar of Voters within Zec,” Minister Ziyambi said.

MDC’s Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga has proposed the insertion of the gender equality clause as stated in Section 79 of the Constitution to be a preamble to the Electoral Act.

“Then, the second one is the one to which we are saying nomination forms that are signed by the political parties have to be counter signed by women because we have noticed that women struggle to get through nominations under the present circumstances.

“On the last day, the men don’t sign women’s nomination papers and field men as the official candidates of the party. So we are saying a representative of women should be involved in that process of those that sign for candidates’ names to be submitted to Zec,” she said.

“So if a political party does not have 50/50 as in 105 males and 105 females for the 210 constituencies we are saying that political party’s papers should be invalidated.

“We know that they won’t agree to this because all the three political parties refused to sign the gender equality charter that we asked them to sign so they won’t agree but we will make the noise.”

Ms Misihairabwi-Mushonga proposed amendments on the code of conduct of politicians that insult other opponents saying if one is found guilty, they must be disqualified from taking part in an election.

“But we want the code of conduct to be organised in a manner that no one can spread hate language, be abusive physically and get away with it because for us those are the fundamental things facilitating a smooth election. And of course the issue of voter education that it should be gender sensitive, the optics and pictures for demonstrating voter campaigns have to speak to women,” she said.

MDC-T Chief Whip, Mr Innocent Gonese in his proposed amendments has called on Zec to be transparent on the issue of the number of ballot papers printed and distributed to all polling stations.

“The Commission shall ensure that the number of ballot papers printed for any election does not exceed by more than ten per centum the number of registered voters eligible to vote in the election. (2) The Commission shall without delay provide the following information, in writing, to all observers accredited to observe an election and to all political parties and candidates contesting the election — (a) where and by whom the ballot papers for the election have been or are being printed; and (b) the total number of ballot papers that have been printed for the election; and (c)the number of ballot papers that have been distributed to each polling station in the election,” read the submissions.

Mr Gonese called for the amendment of Section 40H that accreditation of observers must be under the sole control of Zec.

Others Bills that are expected to be tabled in Parliament today are the Civil Aviation Bill, Mines and Minerals Amendment Bill, Second reading of the of the Public Health Bill, the Zimbabwe Iron and Steel Company (Debt Assumption) Bill and Insolvency Bill.