Court postpones challenge of voters’ bid to stop ZEC from releasing voters’ roll with photographs

HIGH Court Judge Justice Happias Zhou on Friday 13 July 2018 postponed to Thursday 19 July 2018 the hearing of an urgent chamber application filed by some political formations and some pro-democracy campaigners challenging a petition filed by a registered voter, who is seeking to bar the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) from releasing a voters’ roll bearing prospective voters’ photographs as stipulated by the law.

Justice Zhou postponed the matter to allow lawyers representing Ethel Mpezeni, the registered voter, to serve the opposition political parties and the pro-democracy campaigners with the urgent chamber application which she filed early this week and to also allow the opposition political formations to file their opposing papers by Monday 16 July 2018 while Mpezeni should file her answering affidavit by Wednesday 18 July 2018.

Mpezeni recently filed an urgent chamber application in the High Court seeking to stop ZEC from acceding to demands by various political parties for the electoral management body to provide them with a voters’ roll including her photograph or anyone else’s.

In her application, Mpezeni argued that the demands by the opposition political parties violated her constitutional right to privacy.

But in their application filed by Denford Halimani of Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights, the opposition political parties and the pro-democracy campaigners, who include MDC Alliance, Renewal Democrats of Zimbabwe, People’s Democratic Party, Coalition for Democrats, National Constitutional Assembly, Theresa Manase, Evan Mawarire, Harrison Nkomo, Jeremiah Bamu, Douglas Coltart and Warship Dumba, protested that they will be seriously prejudiced by the order sought by Mpezeni, who wants to bar ZEC from releasing a voters’ roll bearing voters’ photographs.

The opposition political parties and the pro-democracy campaigners argued that the order sought by Mpezeni will have a negative implication on the credibility of the 30 July 2018 general elections, which in turn will adversely jeopardise the prospects of economic recovery in Zimbabwe, which is dependent on the outcome of the polls.

Several political parties have asked ZEC to furnish them with a voters’ roll with photographs in line with the provision of section 9(c) of the Electoral (Voter Registration) Regulations of 2017. The political parties argue that provision of the voters’ roll in this format would enhance the transparency of the voters’ roll, which has been a hotly contested issue in previous elections thereby undermining the credibility of the outcome of past elections.

The opposition political parties and some pro-democracy campaigners argued that it is in the public interest for ZEC to issue a voters’ roll with photographs to minimise areas of contestation after elections.

The applicants reasoned that the relief sought by Mpezeni is not in the public interest as it has the effect of undermining widespread calls for transparency and integrity of the electoral process.

The pro-democracy campaigners and the opposition political parties argued that every election process must be structured to ensure that only legitimately registered individuals who appear at the polls to vote are in fact who they claim to be.

This process, the applicants argued, helps to prevent electoral fraud because a photograph is a very useful tool to verify the accuracy of the voters list, to check impersonation and to detect and prevent multiple registration and curb presence of ghost voters.

Source: Zimbabwe Lawyers for Human Rights

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