The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs in collaboration with the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), convened an All Stakeholders Conference to discuss the Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) Petition on Electoral Reforms from 27 to 28 July 2019, in Kadoma.
The Conference was attended by Members of Parliament, President of the Chiefs’ Council, members of the Zimbabwe Gender Commission, Zimbabwe Media Commission and the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission, Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs and Civil Society Organizations supporting democracy attended the conference.
The Petition was submitted to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs on 3 December 2018, followed by oral submissions on the Petition in March 2019, which then culminated in a workshop held in June 2019 to further deliberate on the Petition.
The two day workshop took the format of presentations and panel discussions. ZESN made a presentation on the Petition and called on Parliamentarians to address the following issues:-
· The need for political, administrative and legal reforms to support the creation of an enabling environment for credible elections and electoral processes
· Enhance Independence of ZEC and other Independent Commissions
· Domestication of African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance
· The need for Traditional Leaders to be neutral in electoral processes and a formulation of a Code of Conduct that applies to them
· Improvement in Voter Registration and Voters’ Roll
· Opening up voter education to more stakeholders
· Creation of mechanism for Diaspora Voting
· Review of provisions for the Delimitation Process
· Political parties regulation
· Disenfranchisement and exclusion of persons with disabilities in elections
· Enhance women and youth participation in elections
· Involvement of stakeholders during ballot paper designing and printing
· Guard against proliferation of hate speech and fake news on social media as well as ensure all political parties and contestants receive equal coverage
ZESN Board Member: Jacob Mukamba presenting The Petition on Electoral Reforms
Different stakeholders responded to the content in the ZESN petition and these included the Chairperson of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission who presented on “Experiences from the 2018 Elections: An Assessment of the issues pertaining to the media, public trust and the role of ZEC in ensuring a credible poll.”
Zimbabwe Electoral Commission Chairperson: Justice Priscilla Chigumba
Justice Chigumba said Diaspora Voting cannot be considered because voting in Zimbabwe is polling station based as espoused in the Constitution. She also highlighted that ZEC has no investigative powers, as such all issues to do with electoral malpractices should be reported to the police, urging the responsible authorities to come up with timeous remedies against election malpractices. Justice Chigumba said, it is the duty of Parliament to change laws not ZEC. She urged Parliament to consider issues of political banter that undermines the Electoral Management Body, for example hate speech.
Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs: Honourable Ziyambi Ziyambi
The Minister of Justice, Legal and Parliamentary Affairs noted that government is committed to political and electoral reforms to enhance democracy in Zimbabwe, adding that an Inter-Ministerial Committee was set up to deal with electoral reforms and a report will be presented to the President and Cabinet for approval. Honourable Ziyambi highlighted that government is currently reviewing AIPPA and POSA. He also said, government will extend the 50/50 quota system.
The Zimbabwe Gender Commission Chairperson, Commissioner Margaret Mukahanana-Sangarwe said that political party constitutions, processes, structures and policies should be gender responsive as political parties are by default gatekeepers to women’s representation and participation in politics. Commissioner Sangarwe said the Constitution does not contain a special measure for women’s representation in local government.
President of the Chiefs’ Council Chief Fortune Charumbira suggested that Chiefs should be part of the Multi Party Liaison Committees since they play a critical role in electoral processes by raising awareness on issues like delimitation of constituencies, maintaining peace and resolve disputes at grassroots level.
The workshop resolved that there is need to strengthen the country’s democratic processes and the credibility of elections through electoral reforms and that Electoral Reforms will ensure that the country gets investment and instill public trust confidence in electoral processes. More so, ZESN, in collaboration with other civil society organisations should come up with a Model Law on Electoral Reform, in order to expedite the process of adopting the Electoral Reforms in Parliament.