12 June 2017
HARARE – Health practitioners will today meet the Zimbabwe Electoral
Commission (Zec) to discuss ways in which they can exercise their voting
rights in the 2018 general election while on duty.
Zimbabwe Nurses Association (ZNA) and Zimbabwe Doctors for Human Rights
and other health professional associations will be part of the talks.
Nurses and doctors are under essential services, the same category with
the army and the police, and they are absolutely right to demand that
voting privileges enjoyed by the uniformed forces be extended to them.
Amendments in Section 22A of the Electoral Act introduced the polling
station-based voters’ roll. With the polling station-based voters’ roll,
one can only vote at one specific polling station where his or her name
appears in the voters’ roll unless where exceptions apply like those being
demanded by nurses and doctors.
Because the health professionals will be on duty during voting day, and
given that the Zec is coming up with the new polling station voters’ roll,
and some health professionals will be deployed to work in areas far from
their ward, there must be a special mechanism to ensure that they exercise
their franchise rights without hindrance.
It is against the backdrop of challenges that blighted the 2013 vote, that
Zec must adopt a voting methodology that will ensure inclusivity,
accuracy, comprehensiveness and completeness.
Some doctors and nurses may simply be too busy and, without protected time
from work, can’t get to the voting booth.
Some may feel that caring for patients fulfils their sense of social
purpose, making other forms of civic participation, like voting, seem less
We are glad the health professionals are asserting their rights without
prodding from anyone.
One positive sign is that more physicians are now running for office, we
have medical doctors in Parliament, in Cabinet.
Regardless of party affiliation, more politically active physicians could
add an important voice to our political and social discussions. Health
care currently accounts for a meagre share of the economy.
Fifteen years after the government pledged in the Abuja Declaration to
allocate at least 15 percent of its annual budget to healthcare by 2015,
it is dismally failing to meet this goal.
The critical health sector got a mere 6,8 percent of the $4,1 billion 2017
National Budget. Zimbabweans, increasingly sceptical of and disenchanted
with politics, still seem to trust doctors and nurses.
Doctors and nurses need to get more involved in politics.
Their responsibilities to patients, policy, and the public extend beyond
clinics and hospitals. Of course they can’t all volunteer, donate,
advocate, or run for office. But at the very least, they must vote.