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Zimbabwe Parliament Completes Public Hearings on Electoral Reform Bill

  • Ntungamili Nkomo

Parliamentary security officials issues strong warnings to those attending the hearing that they would be arrested if they made any attempt to disrupt it

Zimbabwe's Parliament on Monday completed a cycle of public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill that was marked by the disruption of numerous meetings in provincial centers including Marondera, Mutare, Masvingo and Kadoma.

Following the disruptions, which most accounts attributed to militants of President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF, the Committee on Justice, Legal, Constitutional and Parliamentary Affairs held its final hearing at the Parliament building in Harare without incident.

Parliamentary security officials issues strong warnings to those attending the hearing that they would be arrested if they made any attempt to disrupt it.

Suspected ZANU-PF supporters disrupted a similar meeting in Parliament in July called by the committee on the Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission Bill.

Legislator Innocent Gonese of the Movement for Democratic Change formation of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai said participants in Monday's meeting showed tolerance of opposing points of view. But he said the meeting was unfortunately quite different from most of the hearings held outside the capital beginning on October 17.

Some of the provincial meetings were violently disrupted, but ZANU-PF legislator Dorothy Mhangami for Gokwe Central, Midlands province, said a number were abandoned simply because members of the public were not aware they had been scheduled.

Most of those who testified in Parliament on Monday agreed that the new electoral law must bar Zimbabweans in the diaspora from casting ballots, saying those who want to vote must return home. There was agreement that the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission must have sole powers to run elections and should the funds it needs to do that.

ZANU-PF spokesman Rugare Gumbo said his party is opposed to the diaspora vote because the process may not be waterproof enough to prevent election fraud.

"How do we know the diaspora people have not voted multiple times? Gumbo demanded. "They should come and vote here, no one will be arrested."

Election Resource Center Director Tawanda Chimhini sand language in the amendment bill requiring voters to cast ballots only where they are registered - and not at any polling station in a ward as currently - would leave rural voters vulnerable to intimidation.

The measure was introduced to prevent the casting of multiple ballots.

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