Poll watchdog concerned Bill outreach not inclusive

The Election Resource Centre (ERC) says it is concerned with the failure by the portfolio Committee on Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs to carry out comprehensive public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill in all the country’s provinces.

Tawanda Chimhini
Tawanda Chimhini

The committee is set to conduct public hearings on the Electoral Amendment Bill on Friday, May 2 in a move aimed at presenting citizens with the opportunity to input into the Bill.

Said Tawanda Chimhini, the ERC Director, in a statement: “Parliament could have done more to include all provinces in the consultation process so as to obtain a truly representative opinion from Zimbabweans.”

The committee will only conduct seven hearings in Rushinga in Mashonaland Central, Gweru in the Midlands province, Bulawayo, Plumtree, Matabeleland South, Nyika Growth Point in Masvingo, Mutasa in Manicaland, Harare and Inyati and Matabeleland North.

“The hearings will exclude Mashonaland East and West but there has not been an explanation as why these two provinces have been excluded.”

The Electoral Amendment Bill seeks to amend Chapter 2: 13 of the Electoral Act, which seeks to align the Act with provisions of the new Constitution adopted last year and address the fundamental electoral issues that have remained a sticking point in the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe.

“We sincerely hope that this exercise is being implemented with the intention of extracting the views of Zimbabweans on the Bill. We are hoping that this exercise is not a window dressing exercise that is meant to placate the citizens,” said Chimhini.

Parliament had sought to rail road the Bill without the input and consultation of the public.

However, Minister of Justice, Emmerson Mnangagwa, bowed down to pressure by MDC-T legislators and civic society organisations and agreed to incorporate into the process, public consultations regarding the Bill.

Chimhini said the Bill is vital to the resolution of electoral disputes that have been a permanent feature of the country’s body politics.

Zimbabwe has been plagued by elections with contested outcomes since the 2000 Parliamentary elections, and the oppositions and civil society organisations have released reports indicating that the country's polls lack credibility.

“We hope 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,” said Chimhini.

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