‘Notorious’ Electoral Act has to be reviewed: Prof Moyo

Professor Jonathan Moyo says the Electoral Act needs to be reviewed and brought in line with the current constitution of Zimbabwe.

The Electoral Amendment Bill, which was gazetted on November 18, 2022, was intended to fully harmonise Zimbabwe’s Electoral Act with the Constitution, amended earlier this year (Constitution Amendment No. 2 Act). 

However, this did not happen because the election proclamation date overtook it in Parliament.

Discussing the voters’ roll, and its evolution in the context of comparative practices on This Morning Asakhe show hosted by CITE on the X platform on Monday, Prof Moyo said the Electoral Act was one of the “notorious pieces of legislation in Zimbabwe.

“That’s why the Electoral Act was amended. It is one of the most notorious pieces of legislation. It has not been reviewed and aligned with the new constitution to make practical changes to render a number of provisions still in the Electoral Act null and void,” Prof Moyo said.

Prof Moyo referenced Section 20 (4a) of the Electoral Act, which, despite being a clear position, has produced confusion today as the country heads to the polls.

“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) was given responsibility to register voters, prepare and maintain in printed and electronic form, a consolidated national voters’ roll and a consolidated constituency voters but none of these will be used for the purposes of voting in an election,” he said.

“We have to point out a misleading evolution, we have never ever had a national voters’ roll in Zimbabwe used for voting. It cannot be used for an election,” Prof Moyo added, demonstrating how the Electoral Act confused some political players.

According to the political scientist, the problem with the voters’ roll in Zimbabwe was that political parties saw it as a “holy grail.”

Prof Moyo went on to suggest that Section 23(3) of the Electoral Act, which was established in 2004 was another “notorious” provision that needed to be examined as it was presently used to disqualify independent presidential contender Saviour Kasukuwere.

“The section says you must be resident in your polling station in your constituency for 18 continuous months for you to remain there. If not there you are removed and deregistered by operation of law,” Prof Moyo said.

He noted that in comparison with other countries, this requirement was non-existent.

“Check anywhere in the world, you will not find such a draconian residential requirement. In the United States, the requirement to be on the voters’ roll is 30 days before voting. In many states in the US, it’s zero days but in many other places for a national election there is no residential requirement of any kind,” said the political scientist.

Prof Moyo said the residency requirement for Zimbabweans was actually ‘absurd’ as the country allowed citizens by birth to have dual citizenship.

“It is preposterous to imagine that citizens of Zimbabwe and resident in country B will not vote in national elections unless you stay in some constituency in Zimbabwe as a resident for 18 continuous months,” he said, noting that this violated someone’s right to vote as stated in Section 67 of Zimbabwe’s constitution.

“It makes a mockery of citizens. Why are you a citizen when you can’t participate in a national election?”

The analysis of High Court Judge, Justice David Mangota’s ruling in the Kasukuwere case that one has to “stay here, read newspapers, become familiar with local issues and know what is happening there,” was okay it came to local authority elections but in national elections or member of Parliament elections, did not make sense, said Prof Moyo.

“Someone goes to Harare and leaves their local place to govern from Harare,” he said, noting that the presidency is voted for by each and every polling station around the country, meaning anyone should be able to vote no matter where they are.

“Even if they are in a dungeon, they ought to be able to vote as long as they prove their citizenship. This is the global international best practice,” Prof Moyo argued.

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