'Stage more public hearings on Electoral Bill'

HARARE - Election watchdog, the Election Resource Centre (ERC), has raised concern in the manner Parliament has planned to publicise the newly-drafted Electoral Amendment Bill.

The Bill is set to replace the Electoral Amendment Act used to conduct the highly-contested July 31 2013 elections.

The Electoral Amendment Bill. is set to be put through  public hearings meant to provide members of the public with a chance to input into the Bill, but there is concern over the small number of hearings.

ERC said the parliamentary portfolio committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs has treated the bill with limited scope by planning to conduct only seven hearings countrywide. The hearings are set to begin this Friday.

The hearings will be conducted in  Rushinga in Mashonaland Central; Gweru in the Midlands; Bulawayo and Plumtree in Matabeleland South; Nyika Growth Point in Masvingo; Mutasa District Council in Manicaland; Harare, Inyati in Matabeleland North, leaving out Mashonaland East and Mashonaland West.

“There has not been an explanation why these two provinces have been excluded,” the ERC said in a statement 

“Initially, Parliament had sought to railroad the Bill without regard to due process, in terms of consulting the public.  However, Parliament acceded to demands from different stakeholders, including the ERC, to conduct public hearings on the Bill.”

The Bill will address fundamental electoral issues that have remained a sticking point in the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.

Last year’s elections were criticised by civil society groups and by regional and international observers.

The poll was reportedly marred by irregularities that restricted thousands of potential voters from exercising their rights.

From the availability of the voter’s roll, registration of voters and the ward-based voting itself presented challenges in the smooth conduct of the general election.

“We sincerely hope that this exercise is being implemented with the intention of extracting the views of Zimbabweans on the Bill, and that it will not be merely a window-dressing exercise and one that is meant to placate the citizens,” ERC said in the statement.

“Zimbabwe has been plagued by elections with contested outcomes since the 2000 parliamentary elections, and with it, reports and accusations of conducting elections that lack credibility. 

“It is hoped that the Bill being drafted by Parliament will put an end to credibility and trust issues that have dogged the conduct of elections in the country,” the election watchdog said.


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