The Election Resource Centre (ERC) and the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) have lashed out at parliament for passing the Electoral Amendment Bill disregarding the peoples’ input during its recent eight public hearings held across the country.
The Bill sailed through the National Assembly last week without amendments after Justice Minister Emmerson Mnangagwa quashed all public views brought to the House by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs.
“The Election Resource Centre is perturbed by last week`s passage in Parliament of the Electoral Amendment Bill amidst excessive disregard of public views which were expressed during the public hearings conducted by the Parliament of Zimbabwe,” ERC director Tawanda Chimhini said.
ZESN, among other issues, has been calling for the inclusion of a provision that provides for the full independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) by establishing an independent reporting mechanism that enables ZEC to report to Parliament and receive funding from the Consolidated Revenue Fund.
ZESN was also calling for the Bill to provide for accessible formats for voting and access to voter education for the visually impaired and the Deaf. In addition, the organisation was advocating for the removal of the presiding officer in assisting the visually impaired when they have a person of their choice.
“Hence the Bill does not adequately make provisions for people living with disabilities in terms of voting, access to voting and the elections of senators representing people living with disability,” a statement from ZESN says.
ERC director Chimhini says the failure by the National Assembly to consider findings by the committee as contained in its report to parliament set a bad precedent on its procedure of facilitating public involvement in critical law making processes.
The portfolio committee on justice, legal and parliamentary affairs, chaired by Jessie Majome, conducted eight public hearing meetings after being pressured by civic society organizations.
The Electoral Amendment Bill was supposed to amend the Electoral Act [Chapter 2:13] (“the principal Act”). It would also align the Electoral Act with provisions of the new Constitution adopted last year.
The ERC said although legislators have the prime mandate of making laws for the country, it said that function must not be exercised in isolation of public sentiments and needs.
The opposition MDC is not happy with the way the Bill was bulldozed through both houses saying it fails in all counts to deal with the issues of reforming the country’s electoral system.
MDC-T chief whip Innocent Gonese, however, said while his party is not happy with the way Zanu PF fast-tracked the Bill and disregarded public input, there is room for negotiation in the future. Zanu PF maintains electoral reform is a work in progress.
ZESN said the country’s voters’ roll should be managed by an independent electoral commission which is genuinely independent.