Give health workers a chance to vote

HARARE - Every Zimbabwean is, or must be equal before the law, and as such the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) must do everything in its power to ensure that health workers, who have been denied their right to vote before enjoy their rights too.

Just like those in the security establishment who have special voting setups, the same should be set up for on-duty medical practitioners who have all along been treated as second class citizens yet they should be free to make their choices regarding their leadership preferences.

With the country hurtling towards make or break elections next year — it is crucial that all the necessary electoral reforms are put in place so as to ensure a free and fair election that will be reflective of the will of the people.

Thousands of Zimbabweans are employed in the vital health sector and like soldiers and police officers they must be allowed to vote at their workstations if they are on duty.

Although doctors and nurses must be placed in the essential services category just as is the case with security forces, that is not presently the case and Zec — the body mandated with conducting elections in the country — must address these grey areas.

Ahead of next year’s elections, and in line with electoral reform demands proposed by the country’s opposition parties, Zec should assure health workers that they will be able to vote through establishing special facilities such as stations at hospitals, something that is granted to the security forces.

Such polling stations should be placed at central and provincial hospitals for the 2018 elections as these facilities host a large proportion of the health workforce at a given time.

As is being demanded by health professionals, it is only essential that the needs of every Zimbabwean are met ahead of elections.

And they are several compelling reasons to establish polling stations at hospitals, as rightfully noted by Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights.

For instance, establishing polling stations at hospitals will ensure participation of health personnel while also ensuring there will be minimal interruptions to service delivery by health professionals in their quest to exercise their right to vote.

Worryingly, only 30 percent of health workers were able to vote in previous elections and in the present setup, patients and key staff manning hospitals and clinics whether inside or outside Zimbabwe, cannot vote because they cannot get postal votes.

This is despite the fact that under Zimbabwe’s relatively progressive Constitution, everyone is eligible to vote, meaning all laws should be aligned to the Constitution before next year’s elections.

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