Legislators say there is need to expedite the electoral law reform process in order to create a conducive environment for credible, free and fair elections as the country gears up for the upcoming elections slated for July 2018.
This comes after Members of Parliament debated the ERC petition on electoral law reform currently before Parliament.
The ERC petition was submitted to Parliament in October 2015 and implored the institution to exercise their oversight role over the Executive on issues regarding voter registration and education, independence of ZEC as well as reviewing of legislature that addresses the political environment during election time.
Speaking during the debate, Hon. Innocent Gonese (MDC-T Mutare Central) applauded civil society organisations for coming up with the initiative to petition Parliament on electoral law reform. He said electoral reform should be targeted on achieving free and fair elections.
Among other issues, Hon. Gonese made reference to the diasporian vote as critical in the election process.
Similarly, Hon. Majome (MDC-T Harare West) said focus should also be on media reforms, reforming the Traditional Leaders Act, the Public Order and Security Act and the Zimbabwe Broadcasting Act. She added that contesting political parties should be given equal opportunities to air their views through both state and private media.
As a follow up to this petition, the Justice Portfolio Committee held public hearings across the country in 2016 and a stakeholders’ workshop in Bulawayo in 2017 to discuss the petition. The workshop brought together Parliament, Government officials, ZEC, development partners, the academia and civil society organisations.
During the stakeholder’s workshop, the Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Secretary, Mr George Charamba put it on record that Government was committed to crafting media reforms that would be incorporated in the Electoral Amendment Bill.
Key highlights of the ERC Petition are as follows:
- Enhancement of the independence of ZEC
- Review of all legislation that negatively impacts on the political environment, hence on the electoral process and the outcome.
- Review of provisions relating to voter registration and the voter’s roll to enhance the credibility of elections.
- Enhancement of voter education by creating more space for stakeholders other than ZEC.
- Extension of the voting franchise to all regardless of location.
- Reconstitution of the Electoral Court as a stand-alone court.
- Invitation of electoral observers must exclusively be a function of ZEC; and
- Enhancement of the role of ZEC in the delimitation of electoral boundaries.
Meanwhile, the Speaker of Parliament Hon Advocate Jacob Mudenda said the Electoral Amendment Bill currently before Parliament has taken into consideration views raised by the public and civil society and would ensure the forthcoming elections are held in a transparent manner.
Adv Mudenda was speaking after meeting Messrs Mark White and Andrew Mclean from the United Kingdom Security and Justice Scoping Mission. He said those who broke the law during the elections would be dealt with in accordance with the law and that Electoral Courts would be established in the 10 provinces across the country.