The Election Resource Centre (ERC) notes the forthcoming public hearings by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to gather public views on the Electoral Amendment Bill HB 6, 2017. The Bill seeks to address inadequacies in the current Electoral Act in terms of the administration of the voter registration process.
While it is essential that legal clarity be provided to guarantee clarity of electoral processes to limit use of discretion by electoral officials which can be vulnerable to bias, it is unfortunate that Parliament and the Justice committee found time to explore yet another bill pertaining to elections. This is comes in the wake of a pending ERC petition that was filed three years ago requesting Parliament to consider full alignment of the Electoral Act with the Constitution of Zimbabwe.
The ERC acknowledges that two key issues of the Electoral Court and voter registration have been addressed through its petition. However key issues remain outstand and these include independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), extending the right to vote to all eligible Zimbabweans including the hospitalised, those in prison and in the diaspora, opening up voter education to stakeholders without restriction, strengthened mechanisms that curb violence and put in place deterrent punitive measures to perpetrators of election related violence.
Furthermore, the ERC notes with concern, the disregard of public input by the Parliament and its committees on laws related to elections. This defeats the spirit of the constitutional provisions guaranteeing public participation in the law making process. The ERC hopes the forthcoming public hearings on the current Electoral Amendment Bill will seriously take into provision, public input.
The ERC respectfully reminds the Speaker of Parliament, the Parliament of Zimbabwe, the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and the members of Parliament in the Portfolio Committee of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs that they are still to conclude the necessary Parliamentary processes pertaining to the petition submitted by the ERC regarding the same Act. The Act also has another Amendment being proposed by the Executive. This Petition gives Parliament a rare and historic opportunity to align laws with the Constitution.
The ERC therefore urges the Speaker of Parliament, the Parliament of Zimbabwe, and the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to ensure the following:
- Assure the public that their input during the proposed public hearings will be taken seriously and considered in line with the letter and spirit of the constitution pertaining to public participation in the law making process.
- Clearly articulate what action has been made regarding previous public input regarding Zimbabwe’s legal framework.
- Outline a clear roadmap to Zimbabwe’s legal framework ahead of the 2018 harmonised elections.
The ERC encourages all eligible citizens to register and vote in the 2018 harmonised elections. Citizens of Zimbabwe are also encouraged to engage in the public hearings and take all measures legal to alert Parliament and the Executive that the proposed amendment to the Electoral Act falls far short of the guarantees expected by Zimbabweans who have lost confidence in electoral processes and the electoral institutions. The message remains that Zimbabweans expect nothing short of an exhaustive alignment and reform of all election related laws. The current state of the legal framework of Zimbabwean elections allow election processes to be vulnerable hence compromising transparency, accountability and credibility of the same.
About the Election Resource Centre
Established in 2010, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) in a think tank and advocacy organisation on electoral and democracy issues in Zimbabwe. ERC focusses on three broad objectives, namely to create a conscious and responsible citizen who participates effectively in democratic and electoral processes; influence transparency, credibility and inclusiveness in electoral processes; and provide evidence based analysis for effective civic and policy engagement initiatives on democracy and elections. ERC’s mission is to provide credible information, strategic services and deliberative platforms to improve the quality of democracy and elections in Zimbabwe.
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