Electoral Bill doesn’t pass democracy test, says Biti
CITIZENS’ Coalition for Change senior official Tendai Biti (pictured) has dismissed the Electoral Amendment Bill as currently drafted, saying it does not address various complaints raised by the opposition.
Speaking to The NewsHawks after the State of the Nation address by President Emmerson Mnangagwa at the new Parliament building in Mt Hampden, Biti said the security of the vote and the ballot are key in any election, but the Bill is mum about the two important.
In his address, the President urged parliamentarians to push the Bill ahead of the 2023 general elections.
“The Electoral Amendment Bill as it currently stands is pointless, it does not address the real issues that need to be addressed, number one the security of the voter, number two the security of the vote, number three the live transmission of results,” he said.
In previous elections there has been serious voter intimidation, especially in rural areas where village heads are used by the ruling Zanu PF to shepherd villagers to the polling stations and ensure they vote for the party.
Violence, including arson, has also been widely used to intimidate voters. Biti also spoke on the silence on the need to reform institutions manning elections.
“The Bill should ensure that all the institutions respect the right of the citizen to vote, the de-militarisation of our elections. The current Electoral Act does not address those issues,” he added.
Opposition parties and civil society members have over the years complained that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission which runs election is heavily militarised. These include the chief elections officer Utloile Silaigwana.
Apart from persons with a military background, Zec is also staffed with officials who have links with the intelligence. His sentiments were echoed by MDC-T president Douglas Mwonzora, who says recommendations of the 2018 election observer mission reports were ignored in the Bill. He also called for the de-militarisation of Zec.
“There are various suggestions made by observer missions in 2018 and unfortunately these observations have not been incorporated into the Bill that we have seen. We do not have the diaspora vote. We do not have the institutional reformation of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission. So, this Electoral Bill as it stands does not address the issues that were raised in 2018,” said Mwonzora.
Foreign-based Zimbabweans have been clamouring for the diaspora vote. Zec is however on record as saying it is impeded by the law which speaks to polling station-based voting. Independent Norton legislator Temba Mliswa said the 5th session is an opportunity to debate the Bill.
“The Electoral Bill is critical, It addresses issues which affect democracy and, as such, this is the time to come together. I am hoping that the legislators and political players are involved in this because we are now going for elections and the only thing that there is, is to make sure that the elections are free and credible. The President has now given us an opportunity to debate on it and make sure that we reform. Reforms are critical and this is one of the reforms that has been spoken about,” said Mliswa.
Biti said the Bill does not address the authorities’ failure to ensure fair access to public media by all political parties.
“. . . number four the issue of the media, equal access of everyone to the media,” he said.
Over the years the opposition has always demanded access to public media, to unpack their manifestos as does the ruling party. Fair and equitable access to public media is not addressed in the current Bill.