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Lawyers for Human Rights Calls for Comprehensive Electoral Reforms in Zimbabwe

FILE: A woman carrying a child casts her vote at a polling station in Domboshava, about 45 km (28 miles) north of Harare, July 31, 2013.

The Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) has urged the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to initiate a process of wholesale reform of electoral laws to ensure the conformity of the Electoral Act to the Constitution.

In a statement, the ZLHR said it was concerned that the reform of the Electoral Act continues to be inadequate and falls short of the threshold of free, fair and credible elections.

“In addition to the concerns expressed by Parliament, ZLHR is particularly troubled by the absence of regulations on management of data collected through the Biometric Voter Registration (BVR) process. In the absence of regulations on information security and data storage, the accessibility and security of information collected, there can be no guarantee of free and fair elections.”

According to the ZLHR, the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs recently presented before Parliament a report on the Electoral Amendment Bill after considering the provisions of the Bill. The committee had convened several public hearings to canvass people’s views.

The Electoral Amendment Bill (H. B. 6, 2017) seeks to introduce amendments that specifically deal with the voter registration process and the proposed amendments largely cater for the introduction of the Biometric Voters Registration (BVR) system.

“ZLHR calls upon the Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, in consultation with Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to take urgent action and table before Parliament a Bill which addresses these and other concerns raised by the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs, which ZLHR and other civic society organisations have been calling for since the enactment of the new Constitution.

“It is imperative to bring the Electoral Act in line with the letter and spirit of the electoral principles enshrined in the Constitution of Zimbabwe, the SADC Principles and Guidelines Governing Democratic Elections and the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (signed by the President in March 2018) and other regional and international human rights instruments to which Zimbabwe is a state party.”

Zimbabwe is expected to hold crucial harmonized general elections sometime this year.