The Bulawayo-based journalists who petitioned Parliament last year to amend section 73 of the Electoral Act and include journalists among persons who qualify for postal voting ahead of the 2023 harmonised polls have been summoned to give oral evidence on their petition.
Mandla Tshuma and Lulu Brenda Harris will appear before the Portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs on 2 February.
In a letter dated 19 January 2023, acting clerk of Parliament, Helen Dingane invited the two journalists to appear before the parliamentary committee “to further explain the issues raised in your petition”.
In their petition, Tshuma and Harris argued that journalists play a pivotal role in society as was seen at the height of the Covid-19 lockdown, when the Government on April 19, 2020, accorded the media sector an essential/critical service status through Statutory Instrument 93 of 2020.
They said while most people were confined to their homes for the greater part of 2020, journalists, security services, and medical personnel, among others, did their national duties.
“Sadly, however, the country’s laws only allow postal voting for members of the security services and other government employees (including their spouses) while turning a blind eye to media practitioners who during polls are deployed to cover elections outside their constituencies,” they said.
Tshuma and Harris said the discriminatory nature of laws has resulted in journalists failing to exercise their democratic right to vote in the previous elections.
“We pray that this should not be allowed to continue under the new dispensation,” they said.