The 2013 Constitution provides for the overall framework for the conduct of elections in Zimbabwe, which must be managed by an independent Zimbabwe Election Commission that is subject to the Constitution and the other laws. The Constitution also provides for political rights – the right to vote and the right to be voted into office. Since adoption of the Constitution in 2013, Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN) and Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights (ZLHR), have been calling for alignment of the Electoral Act to the Constitution. In some instances, ZESN and ZLHR have also been calling on the implementation of provisions of the Constitution as non-alignment must not undermine implementation as some provisions can just be implemented without waiting for alignment as the Constitution is the highest (supreme) law of Zimbabwe.
Responses by government to calls for alignment have been piecemeal through a number of Acts that include:
- Electoral Amendment Act, 2014
- General Laws Amendment Act, 2016
- Electoral Amendment Act, 2018
- Judicial Laws, Ease of Settling Commercial and other Disputes
On 28 May 2018, another Electoral Amendment Act was passed and the 2018 Election date was announced thereafter. Consequently, as a result of the announcement of the Election day as 30 July 2018, any amendments to the Electoral Act that happen after the proclamation do not apply to the 2018 elections, but other future elections.
The Electoral Amendment Act as passed on 28 May amends some sections and repeals some sections in the Electoral Act. However, the Bill does not fully address the concerns raised by ZLHR and ZESN in previous analyses of the Electoral Act. The Bill removes the requirement for an electoral officer to witness how a visually impaired person votes, establishes the Electoral Court as a specialised division of the High Court and sets out a new and detailed Electoral Code of Conduct for political parties, candidates and other interested stakeholders. Importantly, the Bill criminalises threatening statements by intimidators that they can discover how a voter cast his or her ballot and this is important in light of the noting of serial numbers by perpetrators as a means to intimidate the electorate. There are a number of outstanding issues impacting the independence of ZEC, the right to vote, procurement and printing of ballot papers remains shrouded in secrecy and there are no provisions directing the separation of election residue to enable petitioners to obtain a recount for a specified election. Another notable omission is the absence of a framework to guide the operations and accreditation of long term observers. The bill also revokes section 40F of the Electoral Act which requires all foreign contributions for the purpose of voter education to be channelled through ZEC and abolishes the use of voter registration certificates (registration slips) where a person’s name does not appear on a voters’ roll.
Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights and Zimbabwe Election Support Network