Innocent Gonese: Disqualification of candidates can be used as a political tool #ElectionsZW
Seasoned legislator Innocent Gonese has raised concern over the issue of disqualification of candidates which is contained in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
The Electoral Amendment Bill, which is before Parliament, is bringing new conditions that result in the disqualification of candidates, on top of what is already provided for in the country’s laws.
Speaking in the National Assembly, during Second Reading stage of the Bill, Gonese said the provision should be removed from the Bill.
‘’Lastly Madam Speaker Ma’am, the issue of disqualification of candidates can be used as a political tool. We already have selective application of the law. Why should we go beyond what the Constitution has already provided? I therefore submit that, that particular provision should be expunged from the Bill. Let us deal with the disqualifications already set out in the Constitution.
‘’As we speak, we have got some people who are being accused of different and various offences and if they are convicted, an appeal would not set aside that disqualification and for that reason, I would therefore submit that, that provision be deleted.
‘’It is also important that any Bill – we have had situations where some electoral challenges have lapsed and so on. We now need to put in mechanisms which enable election petitions to be dealt with on the merits so that we remove the issue of technicalities which can be used to scuttle petitions and challenges which would have been made to the election of certain candidates. We also need to ensure the role of chiefs who, in terms of the Constitution, are supposed to be nonpartisan and apolitical.
‘’We need to have enshrined in the electoral law, specific provisions which provide for the neutrality of our traditional leaders. When you are a traditional leader, you are presiding over all people in your constituency or in your area of jurisdiction, irrespective of which political party you belong to. I also want to submit that it was imperative to have a situation where the international instruments to which we are a party – I know that as a country, we delayed in signing the African Charter on democracy, elections and governance.
‘’We have to ensure that we inculcate all the principles in that instrument into our electoral law and this needs more consultations. We are seeking readmission into the Commonwealth, and it is very important that the values which are listed in the Charter of the Commonwealth on Democracy are also inculcated or incorporated into the provisions of whatever electoral law that we enact.
‘’In the circumstances, I submit that it is important because we can have proposed amendments and so on but if you have got a Bill which is very narrow in its scope, it is very difficult to have all like we have this particular model law which incorporates a lot of provisions, including the right to vote for people in prisons,’’ he said.
According to Gonese, the Bill should also have provisions that would allow people in the diaspora to vote for the President.
‘’People in the diaspora, I know that an argument has been made that the Constitution will need to be amended and I respectfully disagree. For people in the diaspora, their right to vote is clearly enshrined in Section 67 of our Constitution which gives every Zimbabwean citizen the right to vote and to be voted for. We also have got people who will be in prison at any particular time.
‘’The Bill does not provide for mechanisms to enable these people to vote. An argument can be made that those in the diaspora are not belonging to any particular constituency, but an exception can be made.
‘’You can say that all the people in the diaspora who wish to participate and to vote in elections are confined to vote in the presidential election.
‘’They have a right to choose which President they want to lead them so that you dispense with the issue of wards and constituencies.
‘’I submit that it is important to appreciate that those people in the diaspora are sending their remittances to this country. When you go to Western Union, Mukuru and World Remit, you find that on a daily basis, citizens in the diaspora are sending money to Zimbabwe and as you remember, when we had the American War of Independence, they were saying no taxation without representation.
‘’So those people are sending money to Zimbabwe to assist the development of Zimbabwe and they should also have a right to shape the destiny of this country. We have got civil servants, Madam Speaker, who would be deployed outside their constituencies. Let us have a provision that allows for a special vote.
‘’We have got media practitioners who because of the nature of their work as journalists, may be deployed to areas outside the place where they would normally vote. We have got people who are serving long prison terms, I do appreciate that those short-term admissions may be difficult to deal with, but those who are in hospital, if they are there for a long period, it is important also to have provisions for special voting to be incorporated so that you know you have every Zimbabwean who wishes to participate being able to cast their vote,’’ he said.
Innocent Gonese: Disqualification of candidates can be used as a political tool