Saturday’s by-elections registered a very low turnout of people with disabilities (PWDs) with those voting saying their concerns continue to be ignored by politicians.
Zimbabwe on March 26 held by-elections to fill in 28 parliamentary and over 100 local authority seats that had fallen vacant over the past two years.
CITE moved around different polling stations and observed citizens who braved heavy rains to go cast their votes.
Among the voters were just a few PWDs that were assisted.
At Maphisa Primary School in Sizinda, there was one assisted voter at 9 am. Around 1 pm, in Ward 26, Emganwini at Zara Center Trust, they had assisted only one female who was visually impaired. That was also the case in the Local Authority Housing office polling station in Emganwini as they had only assisted one female who was also visually impaired by the same time.
At Nkulumane terminus polling station, as of 4 pm, they had assisted 13 people comprising seven females and six males.
According to the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC), between January and December last year only four PWDs registered to vote, consisting of two females and two males.
In total there were 30 381 registered voters of PWDs between 2017 and 8 January 2022.
Speaking on her experience while casting her vote, Tariro Gurure, a person with a disability said the weather also contributed to a low voter turnout of PWDs.
“On Saturday what I noticed was that the weather played a role in low voter turnout, especially for PWDs. Imagine if you were to push your wheelchair in the rain, you would be soaked before you reach the polling station,” said Gurure.
“When I got there, I went with my brother but my brother was denied entry into the polling station. He was told to wait outside as a ZEC officer took over to assist me. Say someone is visually impaired for instance, how are they going to vote, what if they vote for someone that they don’t want to vote for?”
Gurure said the issue of assisted voters being assisted by people they trust as opposed to ZEC officers should be brought back.
“I think people were not keen on by-elections; there was a low voter turnout in general. Even people that were able-bodied didn’t go,” she said.
Meanwhile, Best Mawaya who voted in ward 26, Emganwini said there was a low voter turnout for PWDs, arguing politicians only look for them when they want votes during the election period.
“Politicians only want our votes during the election period. We have so many challenges that we have as PWDs but they are not being addressed. Voting and not voting is all the same because we are just treated the same,” said Mawaya.
He added: “I am a driver, I can go as far as Namibia but when I look for employment locally I don’t get it. That’s what makes me lose interest in voting because I am ‘useless’ in this country.”