GOVERNMENT is planning to railroad the Electoral Amendment Bill that is heavily tilted in favour of Zanu PF ahead of the general next elections, in violation of the constitution that provides for wide public consultations.
Instead of holding physical public consultation hearings, Parliament is conducting electronic meetings on radio stations and online platforms such as Zoom, and this approach deprives most citizens of their right to participatory democracy. These are people battling internet connectivity, load-shedding and data costs.
The development is in violation of section 68 of the constitution which has been implemented before by holding physical public meetings to consult citizens on administrative actions such as formulating laws.
Part of section 68 reads: “Every person has a right to administrative conduct that is lawful, prompt, efficient, reasonable, proportionate, impartial and both substantively and procedurally fair . . .”
“Any person whose right, freedom, interest or legitimate expectation has been adversely affected by administrative conduct has the right to be given promptly and in writing the reasons for the conduct.”
On Tuesday, the decision to move to hold online hearings for the Electoral Amendment Bill backfired when notorious citizens hacked the platform and posted pornographic material, leading to the halting of proceedings.
In the past, consultations have been wide and included express meetings with political parties and civil society organisations, but on the Electoral Amendment Bill the engagements have been avoided.
There has also been no call from either Zec or the Justice ministry for written submissions to be made on the amendments.
Part of the Bill like section 4 of (Cap. 2:13) seeks to disqualify a candidate for election into the National Assembly or a council if such candidate is convicted within 12 months of being nominated.
Elections are expected to be held in six months’ time.
Several opposition Citizens’ Coalition for Change (CCC) members have pending court cases.
These include senior member and legislator Tendai Biti, who is facing a case of verbally assaulting a Russian national, Tatiana Aleshina.
The CCC deputy chairperson and Zengeza West MP, Job Sikhala, is also facing a litany of charges that include inciting public violence and obstruction of the course of justice. He is
currently in remand prison for more than 200 days.
Chitungwiza MP Godfrey Sithole is jointly charged with Sikhala and the case is pending.
Party organising secretary Amos Chibaya and Budiriro MP Costa Machingauta also have pending cases together with 24 other opposition activists.
Fadzayi Mahere (pictured), the CCC spokesperson, told The NewsHawks that the Electoral Amendment Bill is fatally defective.
“The amendments have no effect in advancing the independence of Zec and strengthening its administrative capacity to exercise more transparency in the execution and build the trust and confidence of the public,” she said.
Mahere also queried an amendment that seeks to allow voters to use drivers’ licences as proof of identity.
“Section 67 of the Constitution expressly provides that only Zimbabwean citizens are eligible to participate in electoral processes. By implication, drivers’ licences do not constitute proof of identity for electoral purposes as it is common cause that they do not prove citizenship,” she said.
“A non-Zimbabwean can hold a valid Zimbabwe driver’s licence. This clause is therefore irrelevant and does not contribute materially to the enhancement of the citizens’ right to register to vote or vote.”
Mahere also lamented failure by the electoral bill to address recommendations made by observer missions of the 2018 elections. On 11 October 2018, the European Union through its Chief Observer Elmar Brok, presented the final report of the bloc and made far-reaching recommendations.
“The EUEOM suggests in order to enhance confidence in the process, to strengthen the independence of Zec; to ensure Zec provides more effective and timely information during the process to enhance confidence; and for Zec to develop the results management process to enhance verifiability and traceability,” he explained, adding: “To help create a more level playing field and a more conducive environment for the polls, state-owned media must be more impartial in its coverage; legal measures should be introduced to mitigate abuse of incumbency and of state resources; and, campaign finance regulations should be introduced to enhance accountability.
“To improve the legal framework for the elections, legislation should be brought into line with the 2013 Constitution; and appropriate time limits for the determination of pre-election disputes need to be established.
“To make the electoral process more inclusive, areas of under-registration of voters need to be addressed; and Multi-Party Liaison Committees need to be used more effectively.”