The founder and director of Gateway to Elation, Robert Malunda has urged political parties to encourage people with disabilities (PWDs) to participate in electoral processes as it is their constitutional right.
Gateway to Elation is an organisation that works with the visually impaired.
Speaking on This Morning on Asakhe, on the electoral cycle and challenges faced by PWDs, Malunga said they are faced with many challenges during an election.
“We believe that the electoral process is a challenge to people with disabilities, blind people specifically because of lack of accessible venues. Venues are far away we look at Bulawayo’s ZEC office which is Famona in Eastern areas,” he said.
Malunda said there is an information gap when it comes to electoral processes and PWDs.
‘What we have realized is that disability and poverty are intertwined, they go hand in hand, so it is difficult for blind people to travel to places where they can vote and at times I realized that the voter registration blitz was available in most areas but the information was lacking for example not all blind people have radios and the information was supposed to be advertised in places where blind people can be able to access them, so it made it difficult for blind people to participate of the voter registration and elections.”
Malunda also added that there is a need for parents and guardians in rural areas to assist PWDs when it comes to electoral processes.
“In rural areas, parents and guardians of PWDs they need to know that PWDs also have a right to vote in addition to all other rights, they need to vote, and it’s their right to vote for their person of interest. Since for now, we don’t have a system that is user-friendly for PWDs, I would encourage parents and guardians to assist their blind relatives in the voting booth, it’s of importance that families or friends assist PWDs at those polling stations,” he said.
“As much as it is not fair for PWDs as assisted voters but this is the system, but I am hopeful that the two senate posts that we have been given, we will try our best to push for electoral reforms in favor of PWDs of all political divide in Zimbabwe because this is that matter of national interest for PWDs not only for a particular party but for every party because I believe every part has a PWDs.”
He added that political parties need to use their platforms to encourage PWDs to participate in electoral processes.
“In our political parties we need to have spaces where we encourage our PWDs to participate in electoral processes because there is no way a PWDs can be involved in self-representation without politics, plus also politics is a right for PWDs, so that means political parties need the quarter system where they encourage their disabled party members to take part in the electoral process so that they can be able to be part of the electoral system,” he said.
Malunda said Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) has to include PWDs in its system.
“To ZEC I would like to encourage them to be for self-representation because that is the most important thing, lets have PWDs being part of the system, the electoral system in all areas, let us try as much as possible that in the management, in the process of elections, the electoral cycle and let us encourage accessible information and information sharing, it could be brail, it could be audio, or it could be resizing the booth to fit all PWDs,” he said.