'Zec should reinstate the special vote'

HARARE - Zimbabwe Election Support Network (Zesn) is concerned by statements attributed to the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) Rita Makarau to the effect that police officers and Zec officials on duty away from their wards will not be able to vote.

Makarau was quoted as saying this while addressing senior police officers in Harare on Thursday on Electoral Laws and Policing Elections in Zimbabwe.

Zesn director Rindai Chipfunde-Vava said it is regrettable that the Commission has not made efforts to enfranchise the segment of voters who will be on official business on Election Day.

“Zesn has continually called for the reinstatement of the Special vote in order to ensure that no eligible voters are disenfranchised from exercising their right to vote as provided for in Section 67 subsection (3)(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe.

“We believe that there is need to reconsider reinstating the special vote as it enables electoral officials and the security officials on duty on Election Day to vote in advance.

“Although Zesn is cognisant of the various logistical and management challenges that characterised the previous special vote, the Network believes that special vote was a positive development in ensuring the right to vote and secrecy of the ballot.”

She said it is imperative for the Commission to draw lessons from the previous experience and other jurisdictions such as Botswana and South Africa.

“In South Africa, the special vote is not only available to election officials and security personnel but also to persons with disabilities, pregnant voters, the media and any other voters who can prove that they are unable to get to the polling station on the day.

“Zesn calls upon the Zec as the current chair of the Electoral Commissions’ Forum of Southern African whose primary mandate is to promote conditions conducive to credible and transparent elections in the Sadc region to put in place mechanisms to ensure that members of the security sector and Zec officials deployed for duty away from their wards are able to vote.

“Furthermore, Zec should consider seeking for technical assistance from other Commissions within the region who have successfully implemented special voting,” said Vava.

She said in addition, Zesn urges the Commission to speed up the process of deploying the voter registration process in light of the various challenges that registering voters during the rainy season might present.

“We reiterate our calls for comprehensive electoral reforms covering the administrative, political and legislative aspects of elections in Zimbabwe and remain committed to the promotion of democratic elections in Zimbabwe.”

Meanwhile, Zesn notes the awarding of the BVR kits tender by Zec as part of preparations for the implementation of the biometric voter registration (BVR) system.

“Zesn as part of its oversight role in electoral processes will closely monitor the voter registration process to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with regional and international best practice.

“The Network calls upon Zec to ensure that equipment of the best quality is delivered and mechanisms to avoid vendor locking and for adequate skills transfer are put in place.

“In order to enhance the credibility of the BVR process, Zesn urges the Commission to ensure transparency by adopting the Open Data Policy which entails that processes such as training of voter registration personnel and data clerks, management and storage of the BVR data are open to observation by key stakeholders.

“In addition, Zesn reiterates its calls for the Commission to publicise the election operational calendar with clear timelines for when the various voter registration processes will be conducted and how the exercise will be phased across the country,” said Vava.

She said it is imperative for the government to avail adequate funding to Zec for key processes in the implementation of the voter registration such as training of voter registration personnel, comprehensive voter education for voter registration as well as mobilisation initiatives.

“In addition, the Commission must set up mechanisms to deal with voter intimidation, fear and misinformation to ensure informed participation by all eligible citizens.

“Zesn believes that in order to avoid the bottlenecks experienced in previous voter registration exercises, the Commission should remove restrictive voter registration requirements and ensure that adequate voter registration centres are set up in both urban and rural areas.”

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