Rights groups petition parliament on Electoral Bill

Mbare residents queue to vote for the constitutional referendum in March last year.

By Nomalanga Moyo
SW Radio Africa
09 April 2014

Three civil society groups have filed a petition expressing their dismay at the speed with which the Electoral Bill is progressing through parliament, as well as the lack of public consultation during the law-making process.

The groups argue that the Electoral Amendment Bill is being rushed through parliament without giving interested Zimbabweans a chance to have their say on this legislation, in “flagrant breach of the constitution”.

The three groups are the poll monitors The Election Resource Centre (ERC), empowerment activists Women in Parliament Support Unit (WiPSU), and lobby group Zimbabwe Human Rights Association (ZimRights).

The Bill has already passed through the Senate where opposition MDC law-makers at one point walked out after their proposals were excluded from the document.

Last week an MDC-T Senator described the Bill as “ugly and undemocratic” while the Election Resource Centre slammed it as an “unconstitutional”, “weak” and “deficient” document which will not improve the country’s electoral processes.

One of the sticking points is that the proposed law denies Zimbabweans based abroad, or those in hospital and prison, voting rights as spelt out in the new charter.

The groups also want the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission to be an independent body with overall authority over the voters roll.

Many Zimbabweans believe ZANU PF used these institutions to commit electoral fraud during last year’s polls.

WiPSU director Sakhile Sifelani-Ngoma told this station that the electoral bill is also silent on gender issues, which could threaten the participation of women in electoral processes.

Sifelani-Ngoma said they had hoped that the Bill would empower women’s assemblies in various parties to facilitate women’s bids for political office.

“For example we feel that due to the patriarchal nature of our society women can find it challenging to get enough signatures when seeking nomination to contest in party electoral processes.

“Our proposal is that the electoral bill should articulate, clearly, that chairpersons of women’s assemblies can sign nomination forms for women wishing to participate in politics,” she said.

The WiPSU director said there was still time for parliament to conduct public hearings on the Electoral Bill.

“The public should be able to feed into the debate on such crucial legislation, and parliament has a role to play in enabling this inclusion. We also hope that the government will take on board proposals coming from citizens so that the final product is democratic,” Sifelani-Ngoma added.

Election Resource Centre director Tawanda Chimhini said they filed the petition following strong indications that the Electoral Bill will be fast-tracked to a Second Reading state at the National Assembly, where it was referred to from Senate.

“We saw how the Bill sailed through Senate and we are concerned that the same speed may be replicated in the Lower House which also has powers to suspend standing rules and orders for purposes of fast-tracking bills.

Chimhini said should parliament refuse to allow Zimbabweans to participate in the law-making process they will take their case to the courts.

“Denying people their right to debate laws and make their submissions is unconstitutional, and we are prepared to challenge this at the Constitutional Court.”

“We see this electoral bill as a piece-meal attempt at electoral reform. We ask parliamentarians to suspend their political affiliation when dealing with this Bill so that we don’t end up with an electoral law that will have to be amended going into the next general election,” Chimhini added.

The Electoral Bill is one of several other pieces of legislation that have to be aligned with the country’s new constitution which was adopted last year.

On Thursday, civil society groups and representatives from ZANU PF and the MDC-T will address the public on the Electoral Bill at a meeting organised by the Zimbabwe Election Support Network. The meeting is set for the Ambassador Hotel, in Harare, at 5-7pm.

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4 Responsesto “Rights groups petition parliament on Electoral Bill”

  1. Wilbert Mukori says:

    Whilst one would like to applaud these Civic groups for rightly challenging what Mugabe and his gang of cronies are doing one has, nonetheless, to ask these individuals whether they have just landed from Mars!

    Mugabe blatantly rigged the July 2013 elections committing high treason; most of these pretentious individuals either said nothing about it and some even said the nation should accept that Mugabe and his Zanu PF regime constitute government.

    It is within the power of parliament and government to formulate the laws of the land; is it not? Parliament is under no legal obligation to consult the people before passing a law. Even when the regime was compelled to consult, this regime has always completely ignored the feedback anyway.

    I thought the civic society groups were challenging Mugabe to produce the voters roll or else accept obvious conclusion that he rigged the vote. The nine months after the roll should have been released Mugabe is still give excuses why this has not happened.

    Zimbabwe’s civic society has blindly supported MDC in all the party’s political blundering including accepting the weak and feeble Copac constitution confident that it would deliver free and fair elections. Of course it did not happen as we now know, leaving MDC and civic society with a lot of egg on their faces and empty bank accounts. The donor community who have funded their activities in the past is clearly sick and tired of democratic change and human rights projects that never deliver anything.

    The civic groups are challenging the Mugabe regime over a trivial matter just to press the donors to renewed their funding. This is like a Police Office who will not arrest murderer but would question him on why he did not comb his hair!

    Mugabe rigged the elections precisely because he did not want to be held to account so why all this nonsense as if the nation can, somehow, still hold the tyrant to account! These civic groups should device other ways of fleecing donors and not by exploiting the people’s misery and giving them false hope! What good is it to murder victim or his/her family and friends whether the murderer had combed his hair or not!

    Mugabe rigged the elections and he is therefore illegitimate and has no legal authority to do anything. How quickly he is enacting what ever law and his failure to go through the meaningless process of consulting are all semantics but totally irrelevant. What is at issue here is that he has no legal authority to govern, enact laws, etc. and therefore he must go; period!

    accept are the gover a much worse cr

    • Chimbwido Warvet says:

      The only disgraceful and illegitimate ruler we all know was your boss, the late Ian Smith. Only Rhodies can characterise President Robert Mugabe as illegitimate in their well known fight with him to reclaim farms they had stolen from the indigenous people of Zimbabwe which is now in the hands of their rightful owners. Iwe ugagoti kudii iwe wakananzwa nyena ya Alex Bell. Wakananzwa gende rema Rhodie ndikosaka musoro wako wakadanganyika.

      • Wilbert Mukori says:

        The country’s economy is in total melt-down, millions now live in abject poverty and over 30 000 innocent Zimbabweans were murdered in cold blood and it was not by Ian Smith who has done these things and is doing these things!

        • Chimbwido Warvet says:

          You shut the fck up, you fcking idiot. At whose bidding if not that of Ian Smith, were millions of Zimbabweans murdered at Nyadzonya refugee camp, Chimoyi, Chaminuka, Mozambique, in the war zones of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, at Mboroma in Zambia and others who were killed in cold blood in Botswana? We are fully aware, you were involved in these murderous activities during the war to liberate ourselves from foreign domination and control. You will soon pay the price for these criminal activities. London is not going to be your safe haven forever. We will get you one day, mboro yako Wilbert.

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