This activity highlight briefly presents highlights from a breakfast meeting convened by ZESN on 22 October 2019 for the reviewing of the ZESN and CSOs draft Electoral Amendment Bill and the subsequent submission of the draft Amendment Bill to Parliament on 24 October 2019.
ZESN hosted a breakfast meeting attended by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, development partners, Chapter 12 institutions and CSOs. The meeting’s objective was to review the draft Electoral Amendment Bill.
The ZESN Chairperson, Mr Andrew Makoni gave the welcome remarks which included a brief background on activities that led the drafting of the Amendment Bill. He highlighted that, based on observations from the 2018 harmonised elections, ZESN submitted a petition to the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. A workshop was subsequently held where Parliament, CSOs, and election experts further deliberated on the electoral reform issues raised in the petition.
Subsequently, the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, in collaboration with the Southern Africa Parliamentary Support Trust (SAPST), hosted an All Stakeholders Conference to discuss the ZESN petition. At this meeting, the Speaker of Parliament called upon ZESN to coordinate CSOs in developing a Model Electoral Law, in order to expedite the process of adopting the electoral reforms. The Chair emphasised that the ZESN and CSOs Electoral Amendment Bill was drafted through a highly consultative process and he thanked all who contributed to the process.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs, Honourable Mataranyika gave the opening remarks and commended ZESN for its consistent efforts in advocating for electoral reforms. He thanked ZESN for inviting Parliamentarians and other key stakeholders to deliberate on the Bill. He further promised that the full Portfolio Committee would deliberate on the Bill before presenting it to Parliament.
Thereafter, the ZESN Director presented highlights from the Amendment Bill. Among other things, she pointed out the need for the strengthening of the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC); ensuring that the process of cleaning up the voters’ roll is conducted in a transparent manner with appropriate notice being given to the citizens affected; the need for ZEC to be empowered to postpone elections, if necessary; the need for a Code of Conduct for journalists and the media; and enforcement of the law in instances where certain political parties or candidates violate the electoral rules.
During the plenary session, issues that were discussed include the need to include gender parity provisions in the Bill; establishing a permanent Electoral Court, with judges trained in electoral matters; regulation of political parties, including introducing a certain threshold of followership; diaspora voting mechanisms; the need to enfranchise those in hospitals and prisons; and penal enforcements on political parties’ that violate electoral rules in light of the limited current peer review process, and the lack of sanctioning powers on the part of the ZEC.
Submission of the Electoral Amendment Bill to Parliament
The ZESN Chairperson officially presented the Draft Amendment Bill to the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs. Highlights from the ZESN and CSOs Electoral Amendment Bill include:
- advancing the independence of the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission (ZEC) as provided for in the Constitution
- ensuring that the process of cleaning up the voters’ roll is conducted in a transparent manner with appropriate notice being given to the citizens affected;
- making voters rolls’ more accessible;
- Opening voter education to other players;
- extending the postal voting to registered voters who are unable to attend at polling stations on polling day;
- requiring ZEC to issue an elections calendar;
- giving ZEC power to make and enforce codes of conduct to be observed by traditional leaders, members of the disciplined forces (i.e. security services), civil servants and media personnel;
- empowering ZEC to take action with respect to infringements of the Code of Conduct for Political Parties and Candidates and Other Stakeholders;
- formalising the status of the Electoral Court as a specialised division of the High Court;
- Advancing 50/50 parity on women participation in the electoral process;
- Calling for political party regulation including the registration of political parties and regulation of political finance;
- extending the grounds for challenging elections in line with the Constitution and streamline the hearing of election petitions;
- removing inconsistencies that have resulted from the various changes to the electoral processes that have taken place in recent years particularly the introduction of polling station voters rolls.
Source: Zimbabwe Election Support Network (ZESN)