The Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) is disappointed by the proposed Electoral Amendment Bill gazetted by government last Friday, suggesting that the bill falls short of the reforms expected to level the electoral playing field.
According to the 29th post cabinet briefing matrix, cabinet approved the principles of the amendment bill and subsequently the bill was gazetted on 18 Friday November 2022.
The bill proposes to; prohibit the use of drivers licence for voting purposes, prohibit candidates with a previous criminal record from running in an election, provide 21 days for a candidate to withdraw from contesting a ward or a constituency election and include the youth quota in parliament and women’s quota in local authority.
The bill comes against the backdrop of numerous proposed amendments by election watchdogs such as ZESN, ERC, opposition political parties and recommendations from international, regional and local observers.
After the 2018 elections ZESN compiled a compendium of over 200 recommendations from the preliminary and final reports by international and local observers.
To ZESN’s dismay, the Electoral Amendment Bill H.B. 11, 2022 proposes inadequate changes that do not address issues bedevilling the electoral environment.
“ZESN is irked by the fact that the Electoral Amendment Bill is silent and does not address some of the key principles of electoral systems and processes on the conduct and management of credible, peaceful, free and fair elections as enshrined under Section 155 of the Constitution.
“These principles include peaceful, free and fair elections, conducted by secret ballot, based on universal adult suffrage and equality of votes, which are free from violence and other electoral malpractices,” read the statement.
The conduct and management of electoral systems have been topical in Zimbabwe with opposition political parties and activists accusing the electoral management body for executing the will of the governing party ZanuPF.
Currently, the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission is conducting the delimitation exercise but has been accused of being secretive and tight-lipped about the process.
Stakeholders have highlighted that the lack of transparency in the delimitation process may compromise the credibility of the elections.
However, ZEC assured stakeholders everyone would be engaged.
Additionally, ZESN, dismissed the proposed amendment of prohibiting use of drivers licences for voting as inconsequential saying, “ZEC has always declined it as proof of identity for election purposes for example during voter registration and voting”.
Furthermore, the election watchdog expressed concern about the additional of 30 extra seats for women in each local authority.
The quota system was first introduced in the 2013 constitution in an effort to increase the number of women in parliament.
While the quota system has created 60 seats for women, they do not represent specific constituencies.
The extension of the quota system through Constitutional Amendment No 2 attracted missed reactions from the women’s movement, some supporting and others vehemently against the extension.
Quota System Design
However, ZESN has encouraged the authorities to ensure that the proposed quota system for women in local authorities is within the existing wards.
“ZESN calls the government to consider the quota system design that ensures the minimum thirty per cent (30%) seats are within the existing ward boundaries through a portion of Proportional Representation and therefore ensuring equality in how representatives of the country take up public office in direct election seats as guided by the Constitution Amendment (No. 2).
“This will give relevance to the roles that women in the quota play at local authority level, which deals with day-to-day service delivery issues among others.
“An additional quota to the existing wards will make these women redundant, add an extra burden to taxpayers by having councillors without wards, perpetuate their marginalisation and subject them to name calling as is the case with the National Assembly quota,” said ZESN.