Bridget Mananavire 5 May 2017
HARARE – Authorities must amend constitutional provisions relating to
assisted voting ahead of the 2018 elections, as the current ones are prone
to abuse, the Election Resource Centre (ERC) has urged.
This comes as the number of assisted voters in the country’s previous
elections has been contentious, due to vote rigging fears.
Opposition parties have in the past accused the ruling Zanu PF of using
assisted voters to steal votes.
ERC said the relevant electoral provision in the Constitution should
contain various safeguards aimed at protecting and or enhancing the
interests and rights of the handicapped and illiterate.
“The first safeguard should be the insertion of provisions in the sections
dealing with registration of voters. There should be provisions where
those persons who wish to receive assistance in voting will be asked to
indicate this when they register to vote,” ERC executive director Tawanda
Chimhini said in a brief this week.
“They will also be asked to indicate what form of assistance they will
require for example that visually impaired voters want to use Braille
template so that they can vote in secret or that illiterate voters will
want to be assisted by trusted friends.”
The electoral and democracy advocacy group said Parliament should
facilitate the legal changes that are consistent with the rights provided
for in the Constitution.
The organisation noted that the “disproportionately” large numbers of
voters assisted to vote in the 2013 election had raised concerns of
intimidation and fear among voters, with reports stating that over
200 000 people were assisted to vote in the poll.
“Others have popularly referred to this phenomenon, among other tactics,
as a “harvest of fear” characterising the Zimbabwean electoral process,”
“The Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (Zec), the Zimbabwe Human Rights
Commission (ZHRC), multi-party liaison committees and political parties
should also monitor the situation on the ground to ensure that the system
of assisted voting is not politically abused.
“Widespread voter education, particularly in the rural areas where this
phenomenon is rife, should be prioritised and promoted,” Chimhini said.
He said a “visually impaired voter should be able to either vote using a
braille template or vote with the assistance of a trusted person without
the presence of the presiding officer”.