Electoral laws must be aligned to the constitution

There is a need to ensure that all eligible Zimbabweans exercise their right to vote by aligning electoral laws to the constitution, Zimbabwe Electoral Support Network (ZESN) has said.

ZESN Senior Advocacy for Electoral Reform Officer Heather Koga said while the constitution promotes inclusivity, some electoral laws create exclusion.

“There is a need to add more issues that are currently outstanding like if you look at the right to vote and inclusivity where we are saying everyone has a right to vote and there is a need to include all stakeholders from different walks of life to be able to vote. If we look at section 67 of our constitution, it provides for that right, for all citizens of Zimbabwe and this includes even people who are currently not residents of Zimbabwe but are citizens,” said Koga during an interview on the Electoral Amendment Bill.

She highlighted that Zimbabweans in the diaspora, health workers, and prisoners can still not cast their votes even when that right is guaranteed in the constitution.

“We have people in prisons, we have even other areas of service where people are working on election day and we are saying there is a need to come up with a mechanism to ensure that all those people manage to cast their vote because they are currently disfranchised,” said Koga.

She added, “There are other groups that are vulnerable like the people with disabilities, there is a need for a mechanism and a formula to make sure that the PWDs are embraced and also included in electoral processes.

“There is a need for more provisions to sanction electoral violence because that also affects women and other vulnerable groups and prevents them from participating in elections.

Koga also noted that the law must be clear on the role of traditional leaders in electoral processes.

“We have issues of traditional leaders, if we look at our constitution, section 281, it states that traditional leaders must not act in a partisan manner but throughout our history we have always seen and heard of some traditional leaders being partisan, pronouncing partisan declaration and slogans if who they fought for, who they are loyal to,” she said.

“Our law is not very clear on how to define the role of traditional leaders in electoral processes, so that is why traditional leaders have always had that leeway. There is no law forbids them, so we also want that to be included in our bill.”

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