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response to the Gazetted Electoral Amendment Bill
Election Support Network (ZESN)
March 24, 2004
there is urgent need for an overhaul of the electoral laws in Zimbabwe,
the Zimbabwe Election Support Network expresses concern over the
proposed amendments to the Electoral Act released last week. We
feel that the proposed Electoral Amendment Bill renders the electoral
reforms exercise nugatory.
There has been
a previous attempt to introduce the Electoral Amendment Bill in
Parliament. First, the General Laws Amendment Bill was introduced
in Parliament in 2001 and it was struck down by the Supreme Court
of Zimbabwe due to procedural deficiencies in the passing of the
Bill into Law. Statutory Instrument 41B of 2002 was then promulgated
and most of the provisions were similar to those of the General
Laws Amendment. In July 2002, an Electoral Amendment Bill was introduced
again in Parliament whose provisions were again the General Laws
Amendment through the back door. The Bill did not go through the
second reading and lapsed after the Parliamentary Legal Committee
and Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs
made adverse comments on the same Bill. As ZESN, we feel that this
Bill is a reincarnation of the previous Bill. It is surprising how
this Bill has taken so long to be passed.
ZESN feels that
the provisions of the proposed Electoral Bill will perpetuate an
already flawed electoral system. The following are some of our major
of the Electoral Bill gives monopoly to the Electoral Supervisory
Commission to conduct voter education even though there is a marginal
relaxation by allowing the Commission to appoint and register persons
who may assist in providing voter education. This category is where
most civic society organisations that have been conducting voter
education will be appointed to assist in conducting voter education.
Section 19C(I)(e) of the Bill one of the requirements for eligibility
to conduct voter education is the restrictive stipulation that such
persons should be funded solely by local contributions. This is
of special concern considering the fact with the current economic
environment local contribution to civic organisations is inconceivable.
In an about turn, the Bill stipulates that the Commission is the
only body, which can receive foreign funding for purposes of voter
education, which it may allocate to the aforementioned persons.
Section 20 of the Electoral Act is aimed at having proof of residence
as a requirement for voter registration. This was once ruled against
in the courts of law where it was decided that the requirements
are intrusive of one’s privacy. It is the feeling of ZESN that this
could encourage voter apathy.
On the issue
of postal ballots, an amendment to Section 61 of the principal Act
is made and restricts the facility of postal voting to members of
the diplomatic service of the Government of Zimbabwe, disciplined
forces, constituency registrars, presiding, polling and counting
officers and the spouses of the above mentioned persons. ZESN is
of the feeling that the facility should be widened to include people
in the diaspora such as students, Zimbabweans working abroad, persons
seeking medical treatment, people working for international organisations
and spouses of such people. If such people are not accorded, the
opportunity to vote there will be gross violation of their right
The Bill seeks
to amend Section 34 of the Act by granting vast powers to the Registrar
General, the constituency registrar to alter the voters roll at
any time to correct any errors or omissions. This could be open
We are advocating
for Parliament to look closely into these issues as we feel that
the Bill will disadvantage the electorate should it be made into
ZESN is a coalition
of 37non-governmental organisations, which advocate for democratic,
transparent and free and fair electoral processes.
Visit the ZESN
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