Disability Activists Demand User Friendly Voting Material

By RadioVOP Correspondent

Harare, September 09, 2016 – PEOPLE living with disability have lamented the continued failure by government to introduce disability friendly voting material, which allow them to cast their votes without much assistance from the able-bodied.

Speaking during a Communities-in-Action programme on a local radio station recently, Freedom to the Disabled Persons in Zimbabwe (FDPZ) coordinator Wallace Mupfumwa said the secrecy of the ballot for the disadvantaged group remained contentious in Zimbabwe.

“ZEC must provide braille ballot papers and other voting materials to ensure that voters who are visually impaired are enabled to vote without assistance,” Mupfumwa said during a program sponsored by the Election Resource Centre.

“There is a high chance that those who assist visually impaired voters may disclose their choice which ought to be private and secret.”

This, the visually impaired have said, is compromising their constitutional right to secret voting since the law they have to vote in the presence of more than two officials, that is, the voter’s personal assistant, Presiding Officer and a Police Officer.

Section 67 subsection 3(a) of the Constitution of Zimbabwe provides that, “…Every Zimbabwean citizen who is of or over eighteen years of age has the right to vote in all elections and referendums to which this Constitution or any other law applies, and to do so in secret.”

However, the continued absence of material that suits the conditions of special groups is seen by the groups as a deliberate move by the authorities to deter them from voting for a party or candidate of their choice since they do not know what the officials do after witnessing their preferred candidates. 

The Communities-in-Action campaign intends to increase and strengthen the organised and active involvement of citizens in demanding transparency and accountability in local governance issues.

Much of the work focuses on helping citizens engage local leaders on substantive issues of community action.

Zimbabwe has had disputed elections since independence, the worst periods being after the formation of the main opposition MDC, which has posed a serious challenge to Zanu PF’s continued stranglehold on power since independence.

Continued disputes around the country’s polls have been ignited by laws which are apparently skewed towards the ruling party.

The opposition has also complained about patently flawed legislative, environmental, administrative and institutional systems.

Zimbabwe Electoral Commission chairperson, Justice Rita Makarau has come under pressure from Zanu PF opponents to deliver credible polls.

But the country’s management body is said to be under the firm control of invisible forces which include state agents and the military.

Despite continued calls for electoral reforms in Zimbabwe, the process remains piecemeal and devoid of meaningful implementation.

The few legislative changes to the Electoral Act fall far short of addressing environmental, legislative, institutional and administrative challenges facing the electoral field.

Major opposition parties have been boycotting the country’s by-elections since their shock defeat in 2013.