Zimbabwe elections: Blind demand secrecy of vote

HARARE,  (Xinhua) — A blind Zimbabwean voter has filed an application at the High Court seeking to compel the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) to provide ballot papers in Braille or the template ballot to ensure secrecy of the vote by visually impaired people.

Abraham Mateta wants ZEC to put in place administrative measures to enable people in his condition to vote by secret ballot in forthcoming elections due by Aug. 21.

Alternatively, ZEC should provide tactile voting devices to all blind people who wish to vote by secret ballot, Mateta said.

Also, those who wish to be assisted to vote should select their own assistants and cast the vote without the involvement of a presiding officer or any other third party, he argued.

The matter is yet to be set down for hearing, the state media Herald reported Tuesday.

ZEC Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs Ziyambi Ziyambi and Attorney-General Prince Machaya are cited as respondents in the application.

According to the country’s electoral laws, people who are either illiterate or are living with a disability may, upon request, be helped to vote by a person of their choice.

For the blind, the presiding officer is entitled to observe the casting of the ballot for that particular voter.

The person offering assistance does not need to be on the voters’ roll, but should be above 18 years of age, should not be an electoral officer, election agent, chief election agent, and candidate or accredited observer in the election.

“I am advised that the above provisions require ZEC and the other respondents to this application to ensure that I have equal opportunities to exercise by right to vote in secret, regardless of my disabilities or other factors.

“My disability does not mean inability to vote by secret ballot,” Mateta said.

He urged the courts to treat the matter with urgency so as to ensure that his rights were not infringed upon.

“Where my rights are in danger from an imminent violation especially due to state inaction, it is only fair and just that this court urgently intervenes to protect me and those who are similarly disadvantaged,” he said.

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