Zec rejects jailed MDC officials' vote bid

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec) will not allow three jailed MDC officials to vote in next year’s elections because they would have spent 12 consecutive months outside their constituencies by the time the polls are held.

In an opposing affidavit to the bid by Yvonne Musarurwa, Tungamirai Madzokere and Last Maengahama, who are serving prison terms of 20 years each after they were convicted last year for murdering a policeman, Zec said the trio would not be eligible to participate in the plebiscite.

The trio is seeking an order compelling Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs minister Emmerson Mnangagwa, Zec and its chairperson Justice Rita Makarau to register them on the national voters’ roll and facilitate their voting on election day.

“No provision, in the 2nd and 3rd respondents’ analysis of the law, is made for the registration of inmates as voters and or their casting of ballots on polling day.

“In terms of section 23 (3) of the Electoral Act, a person ceases to be a resident in a particular constituency if for a continuous period of twelve months he/she has ceased to reside in that constituency,” Makarau said.

The trio was incarcerated on December 12, 2016, and would have spent over 12 months behind bars by the time of next year’s elections.

Makarau further said the only other lawfully-recognised method of casting one’s vote during an election, other than physically presenting oneself at a polling station on polling day is postal voting.

However, the eligibility of this vote is limited to persons on duty in the service of government outside the country, members of a disciplined force and electoral officers on polling day.

It does not cover the applicants, Makarau said.

“Having placed before the honourable court what I and the 3rd respondent believe to be the most pertinent facts and law in the determination of this matter, I hasten to state that the issue that has been brought before the court by the applicants may be one that requires a legislative solution and not a judicial one.

“I, however, leave the determination of that to the honourable court constant with my averment at the outset that the 2nd and 3rd respondents will abide by the decision of this honourable court,’ said Makarau.

Justice ministry permanent secretary Virginia Mabhiza said in her affidavit the MDC officials were trying to have all the prisoners allowed to vote.

“I am advised by my legal practitioners, which advise I take, that one can only be compelled to do what he is permitted by law to do and that as long as the impugned Act does not violate the Constitution, the only remedy available for the applicants is to go to Parliament and ask Parliament to change the law,’ she said.

The three prisoners, who are represented by Jeremiah Bamu of  the Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR) consider themselves as political prisoners and argue that they were asserting their constitutional rights particularly the right to vote in elections and referendums as enshrined in Section 67 (3) (a) of the Constitution.

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